Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Power Of An Endless Life

It was one of those indescribable “God-moments.”

A few days ago, I was having my devotion time early in the morning, when I felt drawn to read some more from a little book I’ve been picking up from time to time.  As a rule, I don’t use a devotional book other than the Bible in my quiet time, but I’ve been taken by the little book “Be Perfect” which someone gave me which was written by the 19th century South African pastor Andrew Murray.  “Old Murray” has a way of saying things that I like.  The chapter that I read was from Hebrews 6 concerning our “going on unto perfection,” not staying as infants any more but growing up into mature saints.  Very good stuff.

I took a short break.  During that time, a seemingly-unconnected phrase dropped into my head with some force…”The power of an endless life.”  That is from the Bible somewhere, I thought…but where?  After doing a fruitless word search in my usual New American Standard, I checked out the version I grew up with, King James.  There it is…the very next chapter in Hebrews from where I left off!  Now isn’t that amazing!  It had to do with Melchizedek, as a type of Christ, who was a priest not according to the old law, but “according to the power of an endless life.” (More on that in a bit.) 
Now I was drawn back to the Murray book.  I don’t normally read more than one chapter, but I felt to read on.  As I began to read, I stared in wonder at the words on the page in front in me…This chapter was about Jesus being a priest “according to the power of an endless life!”  I had no clue that this would be the next thing in the book, yet there it was…a more beautiful description of the meaning of these blessed words than I could have described.  This sort of thing has happened to me (and others) so many times over the years, but I never cease to be amazed at these moments that could only come from the Savior Himself.

So what of this “power of an endless life?”  What does it mean?

Well, before I let Murray take over, let me set this up for you.  The writer of Hebrews is grappling with the issue that Christ, who has every right to the throne of David as the heir of David…even more as the Creator of David, does not have any lineage that qualifies Him under the old Levitical system to be a high priest.   Yet He must be a priest to perform the priestly duty of intercession for those who He has redeemed, by virtue of His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.  Yet here the writer quotes an old testament passage (Psalm 110:4) which describes the coming Messiah as being “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizidek.”  But what does that mean?

To find out about Melchizidek, we must go back all the way to the time of Abraham.  In Genesis 14, we find Abraham, who has only recently come to his God-called destination of Canaan, trying to rescue his nephew Lot from a pickle he had gotten himself into when he was hanging around Sodom (not a good place to be!) and was kidnapped.  In the middle of the rescue attempt, Abraham runs into a very strange fellow named Melchizidek, who is both king of Salem (later Jerusalem) and “priest of God Most High.”  He pronounces a blessing upon Abraham, and Abraham as a response gives the king/priest a tithe of all he possessed…And then we never hear from Melchizidek again.  How strange!  In our Bible, which is fraught with genealogies, there is no Melchizidekian genealogy.  As the Hebrews writer states a few verses before, he is

without father, without mother, without geneaology, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually. (Hebrews 6:3)

In other words, as far as the Bible is concerned, we have no record of his parents, nor of his descendants.  He is in this way a type of the future Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Though Melchizedek’s life was endless only in type, Christ, by virtue of His resurrection, is endless in actuality.  So the priesthood of Jesus Christ is not along the line of Levi, the descendant of Abraham, but along the line of Melchizedek, who blessed Abraham and received tithes from him. 

This Melchizedekian priesthood of Christ is not some far-flung theological mumbo-jumbo which has no bearing on our lives.  It actually has tremendous implications for how we live from day-to-day.  It means that because Jesus, who fulfilled the Mosaic law perfectly, is a priesthood of a different order, we also live under a different order than the old Mosaic law.  The writer of Hebrews, drawing from the Old Testament again, will later describe the new law under which we live.  Quoting from Jeremiah, he writes:

Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a New Covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Hebrews 8:8a,10b)

We who are of Christ operate under the New Covenant, which functions in our hearts and in our minds.  We are not law keepers, except as we keep the inward law given to us in Christ.

I’ll let Murray take over here:

A careful perusal of the verses placed above, will show that the writer thought it of great importance to make it clear that the law could perfect no person or thing... It was not only the Hebrews who greatly needed this teaching: among Christians in our days the greatest hindrance in accepting the perfection the gospel asks and offers, is that they make the law
its standard, and then our impotence to fulfil the law, the excuse for not attaining, for not even seeking it. They have never understood that the law is but a preparation for something better; and that when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part is done away.
The Law demands; the Law calls to effort; the Law means self. It puts self upon doing its utmost. But it makes nothing perfect, neither the conscience nor the worshiper. This is what Christ came to bring. The very perfection which the law could not give He does give. The Epistle tells us that He was made a Priest, not as Aaron, after the law,…but after the power of an endless life. What Christ, as Priest, has wrought and now works, is all in the power of an inward birth, of a new life, of the eternal life. What is born into me, what is as a spirit and life within me, has its own power of growth and action. Christ's being made perfect Himself through suffering and obedience; His having perfected us by that sacrifice by which He was perfected Himself; and His communication of that perfection to us, is all in the power of an endless life. It works in us as a life power; in no other way could we become partakers of it. Perfection is not through the law;…What the law could not do, God, sending His Son, has done. The Son, perfected for evermore, has perfected us forever. It is in Jesus we have our perfection. It is in living union with Him, it is when He is within us, not only as a seed or a little child, but formed within us, dwelling within us, that we shall know how far He can make us perfect. It is faith that leads us in the path of perfection. It is the faith that sees, that receives, that lives in Jesus the Perfect One, that will bear us on to the perfection God would have.

So now, in the new order of things, we walk, not under the auspices of the law, which required much doing but no faith, but under the new law of faith.  It is by dwelling with Christ day-by-day, abiding in Him, knowing Him progressively more and more, than we fulfill perfectly the requirements of the law, because Jesus is in fact fulfilling those requirements in us! Christianity is not about rule keeping.  Far from it.  It is about walking with the only One who ever kept all the rules!  We can now “go on to perfection” (Hebrews 6:1) because the Perfect One lives in us!  Isn’t that wonderful! 

Let’s turn to Andrew Murray again:

And how do we become partakers of this perfection with which Christ has perfected us? First of all, the conscience is perfected so that we have no more conscience of sin, and enter boldly into the Holiest, the Presence of God. The consciousness of a perfect redemption possesses and fills the soul. And then, as we abide in this, God Himself perfects us in every good thing, to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ. Through Christ, the High Priest in the power of the endless life, there comes to us in a constant stream from on high, the power of the heavenly life. So that day by day we may present ourselves perfect in Christ Jesus…

There is tremendous freedom in these words.  Because we have a High Priest with the power of an endless life, we now have the opportunity never before afforded humankind to live the power of the heavenly life.  Shouldn’t we be taking advantage of this opportunity daily…this power of an endless life?  

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