This week I read an article about a Boston (Catholic) University student named Robert LeBlanc, who went to college, like a lot of young people do, with dreams of one day getting married, having children and setting up a family. But at the same time, he said he felt a growing desire to become a priest. Of course, in the Roman Catholic Church, you have to choose between being a priest and being a family man, and LeBlanc decided to become a priest, and that the Church would be his “family.” That’s a laudable desire — but according to scripture, it was an unnecessary sacrifice, because the Bible teaches us that ALL of God’s people are priests. This is what we find in our passage for today in Exodus 19:6, where the Lord tells Israel:
“and you shall be to Me a Kingdom of priests”
I don’t always do this, but I am going to go ahead and give you my “thesis” for today’s message in a nutshell, up front. I’ll explain it as we go along, but here it is:
If you are a Christian, you don’t need a priest, you ARE a priest, and should fulfill your priestly duties and responsibilities.
I. What is a priest?
A priest is a “go-between” connecting people and God.
A priest speaks to people for God, and he speaks to God for people. He helps bring the two together.
From the beginning of our Old Testament readings we have seen the need for priests. God is a holy God, and we can’t just approach Him on our own, we need a “go-between,” a priest, to mediate with God for us. The priest spoke to people the words of God, and he brought the offerings of the people to God:
— when Abraham won the Battle of the Kings, Melchizedek the priest brought out bread and wine to give thanks to God, and received Abraham’s tithe.
— We’re going to see in Exodus 28 that Aaron was designated as the High Priest for the people with God. He would go into the holy place before God, and represent the people before God. He was the “go-between.” Bula
A LOT OF TIMES, WE NEED A “GO-BETWEEN,” someone to help two parties who are estranged from each other, or who don’t know each other, to get together and communicate with each other.
As many of you know, I will be leaving for Bulgaria on a mission trip this Wednesday evening. I am scheduled to share the message I preached last week, on Philip and the Ethiopian, in a church in Sophia, Hungary, to help train them to reach out to others. I will also be preaching in the mission church they have started in the Rhodope mountains, with a handful of believers, as well as share some Bible stories with individuals they are cultivating with the gospel. Now, the problem is, I don’t speak Bulgarian. And many of them don’t speak that good of English. So what do we need? We need a “go-between,” we call them a “translator,” who speaks both languages, who can take my American English sermon and translate it into Bulgarian, and who can take what they may have to say to me in Bulgarian, and translate it into English. Having that “go-between” is vital if we are going to connect.
In a very real sense, that’s what a priest is. He is a “go-between” who has been called by God to help God connect with people, and who helps people connect with God:
— In Leviticus we see detailed instructions on how the priests were to offer sacrifices to God, on behalf of the people. (they were “go betweens” between the people and God)
— The priests also interceded for the people. Exodus 39 tells how on his high priestly “vest” or “ephod,” there were 12 precious stones, each with the name of one of the tribes of Israel engraved on it. So when Aaron as high priest went before the Lord, he bore the names of the sons of Israel on the stones of the ephod. He was bringing their names before the Lord.
That’s what priests do. They help “connect” people and God. They did this throughout the Old Testament.
Then when Jesus came, in the New Testament, Hebrews says He was our “great High Priest.” Jesus brought man and God together ultimately. When you have two parties that are estranged or separated from each other, it helps if the mediator can be amenable to both parties. The mediator needs to be someone who has something in common with those on both sides of the situation. For example, my translator in Bulgaria needs to be able to speak the common language of both English and Bulgarian.
This is why Jesus is the perfect mediator between God and man. Jesus is both God and Man. He is 100% God; God the Son, who has shared the glory of God in heaven for all eternity. But in the Gospels He took on flesh and blood and became 100% Man. So Jesus can in a sense take God by one hand, and Man by the other, and bring the two together. That’s what He did at the cross, and that’s what He continues to do as our Intercessor in heaven. Jesus is the Perfect, Great High Priest.
So a priest is a “go-between” connecting people with God. He brings the word and instructions from God to man, and he brings offerings and prayers from man to God. I think most of us know that. But here’s something you may or may not know — or if you DO know it, you may not realize it fully:
II. If you are a Christian, you are a PRIEST.
Do you realize that? If you are a Christian, you are a priest. Now, those words, “IF you are a Christian,” are vital here. You need to make sure that you truly are a Christian, for this to be true for you.
To be a Christian does NOT just mean that you go to church a lot.
It does NOT just mean that you have been baptized.
It does not mean that you are trying your best to be a good person.
To be a Christian means that you realize that God made you to love and worship Him, but you also realize that you have sinned against God. You know you have sinned in thought, word, deed, attitude, and things left undone. You know if God hadn’t done something for you, you would have NO hope of going to heaven, because of your sin. But you also believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sin, and paid for your sin on the cross, and rose again from the dead. But not only that, you have come to a time in your life when you repented (turned around) from your sins, and trusted Jesus to be YOUR OWN Lord & Savior. Now you know you are saved, and going to heaven, NOT because of the “good things” you’ve done for God, but because of the good thing HE did for you in Jesus at the cross. The Holy Spirit is in your heart, bearing witness that you are a child of God. THAT is a Christian. If this has happened to you, you are a Christian. If this has not happened to you, you are NOT a Christian, and you need to become one. You should do it today. Admit your sin to God and ask Him to save you. (We’ll give you an opportunity to do that at the end of today’s service.)
But if you are indeed a Christian, then the Bible says YOU are a priest.
God says to us today like He did to Israel here in Exodus, I’m making you “a kingdom of priests.” That’s not just an inference; God TELLS us that in the New Testament:
— I Peter 2:5 says to Christians: “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
God says YOU, New Testament Christian, are a holy priesthood!
— He goes on to say in I Peter 2:9 “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession …”. Again He says, you are a “royal priesthood.”
— Revelation 5:10, speaking of God’s people, says: “You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10)
What all this means is, If you are a Christian, you don’t need a priest; you ARE a priest. You don’t need someone to come in between you and God to pray for you, YOU can pray to God yourself. Ephesians 3:12 says we have “boldness and confident access (to God) through faith in Jesus.” If you know of someone who needs prayer, you don’t have to go get a priest to pray; you ARE a priest who can pray!
Martin Luther lived in the 1500’s a tumultuous time of great error in the churches. There were many abuses in the churches and misunderstanding of Biblical doctrines. Some of those errors had to do with what had evolved as a “priesthood” in the churches. The Roman Catholic Church of that time had a strict division between what they called “priests” and “laypeople.” They taught that only the priests could do certain things — even like reading the Bible. They actually chained the Bibles to their pulpits, because they didn’t want the “laypeople” reading the Bible — no telling what “errors” they might get into if they did! They’d have a fit if they knew we were encouraging everyone in our church to read the Bible for themselves and see what God had to say to them! NO!, they would say; the “priest” will tell you what God says. You can’t know that yourself.
But Martin Luther began the Reformation and came against all that. In his “Address to the Nobility of the German Nation” (1520) he says, “For whoever comes out of the water of baptism can boast that he is already a consecrated priest.” In other words, if you’re a Christian, you’re a priest, whoever you are!
— you don’t need someone to read the Bible for you; you can read the Bible for yourself.
— you don’t need someone to pray for you; you can pray for yourself.
— you don’t need someone to go to God for you; you can go to God yourself.
You don’t need to “go get a priest”! YOU are a priest!
Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t get people to pray for us; we should help bear one another’s burdens in prayer; and it doesn’t mean that God hasn’t gifted some people with the ability to preach and teach God’s word in a special way; His word tells us He HAS given people those gifts, and we can benefit from them. But this means you are not DEPENDENT upon those other people for your relationship with God. You can get a truth from God’s word just as surely as the pastor can. You can pray just like any minister can. You can come before the Lord just like a priest can. You don’t need a priest; you ARE a priest! (And by the way, it’s not just men either; it’s for men, women, even children — if you are a Christian, you are a priest!)
III. If you are a priest, you should fulfill your priestly responsibilities:
This is a great privilege God has given you, to be a priest. So you need to live up to your calling. You need to fulfill the duties God gave you as a priest. What are these duties? I want us to focus on two this morning that we should all take very seriously:
A. First, the priests were to be holy.
In :6 here God says “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a HOLY nation.” The word “holy” means to be set apart for God:
— In :22 of this chapter God reinforces that; He says “Let the priests who come near to the LORD consecrate themselves, or else the LORD will break out against them.” He says, if you are a priest, you need to “consecrate” yourself, which means to make yourself HOLY, before you try to come near to the Lord.
— In the New Testament, I Peter 2:5 says you are “HOLY priesthood.” As God’s priests, we are to be holy, set apart for God. And that means ALL of us; remember as New Testament believers, we are ALL “priests” of God.
So as you consider actions and activities you should or should not do, one of the questions you might ask yourself is: “Do I think Bro. Shawn, or Bro. Kyle, or Bro. Scott should be doing this?” As pastors, preachers of God, do I think it would be wrong for THEM be doing this? And then remember what we see from God’s word today: we are ALL priests of God! We are ALL to be holy before Him. If a pastor should’t be doing it; then I shouldn’t be doing it either. If a priest shouldn’t be doing it, then I shouldn’t either. We need to think this way: “I am a priest. I am to be holy.”
Maybe God’s Spirit is speaking to you about something in your life right now. You are priest. You have a responsibility before God to be holy.
B. Secondly, the priests are to intercede for others.
That is what a priest IS. He intercedes for people with God. I mentioned how the High Priest had on his ephod, or vest, that he wore into the holy place, precious stones with the the names of tribes of Israel engraved on them as he went before the Lord. He brought their names before the Lord.
This is what Jesus did for us as our Great High Priest; He brings our names before God the Father and intercedes for us. We are to do that same thing for others.
This is what we see Paul doing in Romans 10:1 Writing about his Jewish brethren, he says: “My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” Paul interceded in prayer for his Jewish brothers to be saved. He was acting as a “go-between,” in a sense, between them and God, praying for their salvation.This is our job, too, as God’s priests.
One of my favorite Old Testament verses is Psalm 5:3, “In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice. In the morning I will order my prayer to You, and eagerly watch.” David is talking about how he is committed to pray every morning. But the Hebrew language here is very expressive: in that phrase “I will ORDER my prayer,” the word “order” there is the same word used of the priest, who “orders” or lays out the morning sacrifice to the Lord, which was his first duty of the day.
Just as the priest’s first duty of the day was to lay out the morning sacrifice to the Lord, so one of our first duties every day is to perform OUR priestly duty, and offer OUR prayers to the Lord: prayers of worship — and also, like the priest, prayers of intercession for those who are on our hearts.
We need to take our “priestly duties” seriously. There are several ways we can do that:
—Be an intercessor in prayer. You are a priest; then intercede! Just like Aaron bore the names of the sons of Israel over his heart on his ephod before the Lord, so YOU as a priest, take the names of those who are on your heart before the Lord in prayer. That is your duty as a priest.
Who is it that you need to be praying for? Family, church members, pastor and staff, missionaries and mission fields, our country, elected officials, and more.
It’s hard to remember everyone, so you really need to make a prayer list. If you don’t take anything else away from the message this morning, do this. If you don’t have one already, make a prayer list.You might start by making just one list for prayer — but I will also tell you that if you consistently pray for any length of time, your prayer list is going to get too long to pray for all of your requests, every day. You’re probably going to have to split it up, and pray for some people on Sundays, some Monday, and so on. I think I’ve shared before that I pray for pastors and churches on Sunday, our family on Mondays, our church and ACS on Tuesday, the sick on Wednesday, our country and elected officials on Thursday, our neighborhood on Friday, and the lost on Saturday. (And I pray for 2-3 different missionaries each day as well.) There’s just too much to pray for all of these things, every day (at least while I am still working full-time!) So I split it up. And you can too. So split it up however you want to, and get a prayer journal, or make some lists on your phone or computer, however you want to do it — but the main thing is, DO IT SOMEHOW! Make a list or lists of people you are praying for, and be faithful to USE IT every day. Interceding for other people in prayer is one of THE most important responsibilities you have as a Christian. You are a priest, a “go-between” for others with God. So “GO BETWEEN” them, every day, in intercessory prayer.
—Be faithful to guard your loved ones in prayer.
In John 17, Jesus prayed what is often called His “High Priestly Prayer.” In it, He prays for His followers. And in that prayer He prayed: “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name.” (John 17:12)
Jesus was faithful to “keep,” or “guard” His disciples in prayer.
We need to be faithful like that too. We should all be faithful to “guard” our family in prayer. Some of you men, I know, would not consider yourself to be a faithful husband and father if you didn’t have a gun by your side, ready to protect your family against enemies and intruders. I think that’s a good thing. But in the same way, do you realize that there is a spiritual enemy who wants to destroy your family — only you can’t get at him with a gun! The only way you can fight off this enemy from your wife, or from your kids, is in PRAYER. So I ask you men: are you guarding your family in prayer? Are you praying God’s spiritual hedge of protection around those He has entrusted to you? Are you praying agains the devil and his evil plans against your family?
And that’s not only for husbands and fathers; it’s for all of us. Let’s fulfill our priestly duties towards our families; let’s “guard” our loved ones in prayer. One of the biggest responsibilities you have, is to be able to pray like Jesus: “While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name.”
— This applies to our prayer walks this month too. Do you know why you live where you do? You may say, “Yeah; because I bought this house, or rented this apartment …” or whatever. But the truth is, you live where you do because GOD worked all things together in His plan to put you where you are. I Peter 1 says He “strategically planted” you there. And He planted you there to be a “priest” for your neighborhood. Do you realize that you are the “neighborhood priest” for your neighborhood? You are! That’s why God has positioned you there; to pray for your neighborhood; to minister to the people there as God’s priest in their midst.
So we need to take our responsibilities as God’s priests, seriously, in the neighborhoods where He has strategically planted us.
And The first responsibility you have as a priest in your neighborhood, is to PRAY. PRAY for your neighborhood. Pray for the whole street or housing addition or all the house in your square mile or stretch of road. Make it a special point of responsibility to meet every neighbor, learn their names, and pray for each one of them by name.
When Cheryl & I first moved into our neighborhood on Cay Court off Buchta, one of the first things I did was start a note file on my phone with the title, “Neighbors,” and every time we met one of our neighbors, I would type in their name, so we wouldn’t forget it; and any other information that would help me know how to pray for them: what church they went to, if we found that out; any special things we needed to be praying for them. We often walk through our neighborhood; and often when we walk, we pray the families there. I also pray for everyone in our neighborhood by name every Friday: I pray for some to be saved; for some to be revived in their church; I pray for their kids and grandkids; I pray for problems or needs that I know of; I bring them before the Lord. I try to be faithful as a “neighborhood priest.”
You may say, “Yeah, well, Bro. Shawn, you are a preacher; you should see yourself as a neighborhood priest.” But what I am trying to get across in this message today is that YOU ARE A NEIGHBORHOOD PRIEST TOO! God has strategically placed you where you are, for the specific purpose that you would pray for the people there, and minister and witness to them as God’s “priest” in your neighborhood. The big question is: Are you doing that? If not, you are missing one of God’s most important assignments for your life as a Christian.
God tells us clearly in His word: YOU ARE A PRIEST:
— be faithful to live a holy life, that sets you apart in the eyes of others as a priest of God
— be faithful as a priest in your intercessory prayers for others
— be faithful as a priest to guard your own family
— be faithful to pray for all those in your neighborhood, and minister to them as the “neighborhood priest.”
Can you imagine what would happen, if we turned loose about 200 holy, Biblical, praying priests on the City of Angleton? This place would never be the same again! And that is exactly what God wants to see take place. That is His plan. That’s why He made us: “A Kingdom of Priests.”
INVITATION: Let’s consider how we each need to respond to this word:
— Is there any habit or activity in your life that you would say a minister ought not be doing? Then the truth is, you ought not be doing it either. Let God’s Spirit direct your heart …
— Are you taking seriously God’s call as a priest?
— Do you have a prayer list? Do you need to start one today?
— Are you “guarding” your family in prayer on a regular basis?
— Are you praying for your neighborhood/your neighbors/watching for opportunities minister and witness.
— DO YOU KNOW FOR SURE THAT YOU ARE A PRIEST, because you have given your life to Jesus as your Lord & Savior? If not, then you need to do that today …