In our last sermon on our “Born-Again Identity in Christ,” we focus on our role as priests. We look at what priests did in Old Testament times, and see how God has called and equipped us to be New Testament priests. What gifts He has granted us and what great opportunities we have in front of us!
I Peter 2:9 – we are a royal priesthood
In our everyday lives, we would want to know if who we were changed. It’s the same in the spiritual areas. The more we know about who we are in Christ, and what we have available to us, the more we can live in victory and live the life we were created to live.
What does it mean to be a priest? The more we study the Old Testament, the more we discover about what it means to be a priest. When the Lord brought His people out of Egypt, He gave them the law. He also gave them the priesthood, so they had an intermediary between a holy God and sinful man.
Priests oversaw the sacrifices that were needed! A constant, bloody, messy task. All the members of the priesthood were given that role because they were members of the same family. Today, so are we.
There is no distinction between priests and non-priests in the Kingdom of God. If you know Jesus, you are a priest. No religious hierarchy. Ephesians 4:11 and references to deacons and bishops refer to callings. We are all ministers of His grace, able to relate directly to God, and able to help others relate to God!
The Old Testament priests had to use the blood of goats and bulls and other animals in their work. We have a much higher currency: the blood of Jesus.
So how do we work with that?
First, they priests had to make sacrifices for themselves before they could do the priestly work for others.
We need to take full advantage of the blood of Jesus by applying it liberally to ourselves. Priests were called to reflect the holiness of God in ways that are hard for us to understand today, and they took His holiness seriously.
The standards for holiness are higher for those who want to be used fully as the priests we are. We may not be judged with death, but we may find ourselves ineffective.
After that, they had something no one else in Israel had–access to God. They needed to draw near to God. WE GET TO!
Oh, what we take for granted! How wasteful we can be with such a gift as access! If you’re a Christian, you have what the rest of world is looking for! We have direct access to God, and God Himself provided for it!
Once the priests took care of their own washing, they were in a position to minister to others.
Priests took care of the sacrifices that people had to make, and that was constant, dirty work. Sin offerings, guilt offerings, thanksgiving offerings! But the joy of it was knowing that you were helping people get right with God. They could enjoy the blessings of God.
We can do the same thing! We can point people to that complete forgiveness. We can give them the hope that comes with being forgiven. Or we can help fellow Christians get right with God, grow closer to God, and gain understanding about God and His ways. Getting into the lives of people, helping them, loving them, connecting them with the Lord and helping them understand His ways–that can be messy, too? Are you willing?
A huge part of the job of a priest was intercession–offering prayers up to God on someone else’s behalf. Since they were the only ones who had direct access, they were in a unique position to offer prayers that others couldn’t. We have that access, and can pray for and with those that need God’s help. We have access–and a call–to pray for those who don’t want to be loved, taught, or connected with God.
The Old Testament priests had no earthly inheritance connected with these responsibilities. Their inheritance was God Himself. Do we know, deep down, that He is our greatest inheritance? On the day of our physical death, our connection with the Lord will be the only thing that we can take with us! And for those who don’t have Him as an inheritance, it will be the one thing they wish they had.
Lastly, we’re a kingdom of priests, which means that we do this together, under the King of kings! God sees us as individuals, and He sees us as a kingdom, a group.
Are we willing to get in there, to love people enough, to get involved enough, to pray enough, to encourage enough, to teach and train and help enough? Are we willing to get involved in the messy, priestly business of connecting people with God and one another? It’s our sacred call, and it’s an essential part of our identity. Let’s receive the call and trust in His empowerment.