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Pastoral letter 163 Jesus Christ our Best Pastor

July 13th, 2012




May the God of Peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing His will, and may He work in us what is pleasing to Him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever, Amen.

(Hebrews 13:20,21)




This shall be my final Pastoral Letter.  What a joy it has been for me to walk with you for so many years, and what a joy it has been to share these letters with you!


How fitting is the subject which we have come to today, and with which we conclude these letters!  We have been walking through the great letter to the Hebrews, and we have seen that Jesus Christ is our Best:








Now we shall see that the Lord Jesus is our Best



How wonderful it is for me, as I leave this time as your pastor, and as you await the coming of your next pastor, to commend you to the True and Greatest Pastor, the Lord Jesus Himself.


A pastor is a “shepherd”.  The Latin root for the word means just that.  Look at the text at the top of this letter from Hebrew 13.  It refers to Jesus Christ as “that great Shepherd of the sheep”.  I am a pastor (what a privilege!).  I am a “shepherd”.  It has been my joy to feed you in the green pastures of God’s Word over these many years.  Another will soon come to take my place.  But neither of us, indeed, no mere man, is “that great Shepherd”. That title belongs to Jesus alone.


As an “under shepherd”, my job has been to keep a keen eye upon “that great Shepherd” and lead us where He goes.  So will be the role of your next pastor.  The key figure here is not me, nor the next man, but Jesus.  He is the True, Faithful, Final Pastor!  Men come and go!  Men disappoint!  Men die!  Jesus is “that great Shepherd”.


The job description for every pastor is very simple and it is derived directly from the Lord Jesus Himself.


He is to Gather the flock

He is to Guard the flock

He is to Guide the flock


All of these are done through the ministry of the Word of God to the people of God.  This has been my aim and life to you for all these years.  This has been my Job.  This will be my successor’s Job.  But it is Jesus Himself who is behind it all.


It is He who Gathers the flock (when sin has separated the sheep from the Shepherd and from one another) through the ministry of the Word in evangelism


It is He who Guards the flock (when wolves threaten to devour) through the ministry of the Word in teaching, warning, and instruction.


It is He who Guides the flock to green pastures (where the sheep are nourished and made strong) and through dark valleys (where the sheep are kept safe and secure) through the ministry of the Word in encouragement and exhortation.


Just feast upon these words from Jesus:


“I am the Good Shepherd [pastor]…I know my sheep…I lay down my life for my sheep…

I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my

Hands.”  (John 10:11 ff)


As difficult as it is for Tessa and me (Ben!) to leave you (and it is very difficult), it is good for us all, because it reminds us that Jesus is our “great Shepherd”.  Your next pastor will be different than me (he might be a vegan!).  His wife will be different than Tessa (she might eat white bread!).  His kids will be different.  But his job description will be the same, and, most importantly His Boss will be the same.


This is a great time for us to prove that we are Christ-centred and not man-centred.  This is a great time to prove to ourselves that the Word of God and not the personalities of men is what holds us together as a People.  This is a great opportunity to prove that the bond of love which exists between us comes from Jesus Christ and His Redeeming Work for us, and not from anything to do with us.


Let us exalt Jesus as the Best Pastor.  Let us hold without compromise to Him and His Word.  Let us follow Him as our Great Shepherd.


Christ will prove Himself faithful over you.  Focus upon Him.  Be attentive to Him.  Encourage your next “under shepherd” to be first and foremost a man of the Word and of prayer….ever attentive to “that great Shepherd”…


….And all will be well.


I love you with all my heart, and it has been the great privilege of my life to have been your pastor for all these years.

I commend you in faith to Jesus Christ




John Gillespie


He tends His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart. (Isaiah 40:11)


Pastoral letter 162 Jesus Christ our Best Purifier

July 13th, 2012


Jesus Christ our Best Purifier

Printable version: pastoral letter 162


Dear Friends,


The Bible speaks of Heaven, and the things of Eternity, as realities.  Jesus said that He has gone “to prepare a place” for us.  We are encouraged in the Bible to “lay up treasures” in Heaven, and to yearn for Heaven as our “home”.


Jesus Christ has come to fit us for Heaven.  His obedient, sinless life and atoning death have opened the way to Heaven for all who come to the Father through Him.  His work accomplished salvation for all whom the Father has given to Him (John 6:38, 39).


Take some time and read Hebrews 9.  Don’t hurry.  There is no prize for reading the Bible with speed.


If Hebrews 9 seems a bit foreign to our Gentile ears, that is because it is!  The entire book is steeped in the Old Testament, and no part more than chapter 9.  Nevertheless, it has gems in it waiting to be discovered for the one who will dig a bit.


The “big theme” of the chapter is the cleansing power of the Blood of Jesus.  Words like “blood”, “cleanse”, “clean”, “clear”, purify” are found in this passage.  If we keep this “big theme” in mind, then we will be able to dig out the gems from this great chapter and discover God’s Truth for us in it.


We have already seen that Jesus is our Best Brother, Priest, Prophet, and Promise.  Let’s discover now that He is our Best Purifier.


The background to this passage is the Old Testament Temple system.  Chapter 9 verse 10 refers to that entire “old” way of doing things as “external regulations applying until the time of the new order.”  The big point here is that for all the busyness of the old ways (and impressiveness) there simply was no power there to finish the work of purifying the sinner once and for all (see vv 8,9).  No Old Testament Jewish person, be they ever so diligent and fervent, could ever know the peace and rest of a thoroughly cleansed conscience.


The work that Jesus accomplished on the cross is then presented as wholly sufficient for the complete cleansing of the believing sinner.  What Good News the Gospel is!


We will take a close look at this by exploring three truths about Christ’s shed blood which shine forth from this passage:


1)  The Power of Christ’s Blood (Its efficacy)

2)  The Purpose of Christ’s Blood (Its necessity)

3)  The Perfection of Christ’s Blood (Its sufficiency)


Ready to think? Ready to worship God with your brains?


1) The Power of Christ’s Blood (Its efficacy) (9:11-15)


Chapter 9, verse 12 tells us that Christ has “…entered the Most Holy Place once for all by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.”  That word “redemption” is a powerful word.  It means “to release by the payment of a price”.  So we ask:


Who has been redeemed?  We have.

From what?  From bondage to sin.

By what?  The very blood of Jesus Christ.

For how long? For all Eternity


Now, there is no other substance that can cleanse from sin like the Blood of Christ.  The blood of 10,000 bulls and goats could not accomplish what this one sacrifice accomplished.


Look at the depth of this cleansing:  Chapter 9, verses 13, 14 tell us that the blood of Christ can cleanse way down to the level of the conscience,  so that we may be free to serve the loving God.  As deep as sin and guilt go, the Blood of Christ can go deeper still and redeem.  We can even know redemption at the level of the conscience.


Refuse anything less that the complete work of Christ.  What else has the power to cleanse and redeem for all Eternity right down to the very centre of your being?  The Blood of Christ shed once secures our “promised eternal inheritance” (v.15).  In other words, the redemptive work of Christ is so powerful a remedy for our sin, that our eternal salvation is warranted by it.


2) The Purpose of Christ’s Blood (Its Necessity) (9:16-24)


We must realize and receive as True the fact that God has determined that the way to deliver a sinner from His sins must require the shedding of the Blood of His own Son.  This is God’s determination and we are to gratefully receive God’s remedy by faith and not think that we could have somehow come up with a better way!  In the Cross God has shown Himself to be both just, and the justifier of those who have faith in Christ (Romans 3:26).


It was God who determined that the Blood of Christ was the only and necessary answer for sin.


Verse 22 states that the Law “requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”.  This verse refers to things in the old Jewish Temple.  But the very next verse tells us that if the earthly “copies” needed cleansing, the “heavenly things themselves” (that being us, the worshippers.  See Rev 5:9-10) must of necessity be cleansed with something better…the Blood of Jesus Christ.


Men and women can be as religious and fervent as they may, but receiving Christ and His finished work on the Cross as the God-ordained remedy for sin is the only and necessary solution which God Himself provides.


Finish the sin and guilt issue by submitting to God’s solution!


3)The Perfection of Christ’s Blood (Its Sufficiency) (9:25-28)


Look at the busyness of the old high priest! Verse 25 reminds us that he had to offer sacrifices again and again, every year.  There was never a sense of the job being finished!   Untold thousands, and hundreds of thousands, of animals were sacrificed every year to remind Israel of their sins and bring devout Jews to a place of contrition before God.  But there was never a sense that things were resolved.  The rivers of blood were not sufficient.

They could not do a perfect work.


Now take your eyes off of the old high priest and put them upon your High Priest, Jesus.  He has (v.26):

“Appeared once for all”

“to do away with sin”

“with the sacrifice of Himself”


Christ (v.28):

“…was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people”


And He will (v.28):

“…appear a second time…to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him”


So we see that the Infinitely Valuable Son of God paid an Infinite Price to cancel the Infinite Debt that we owed.  When Jesus Cried on the Cross “It is finished” (John 19:30), He was declaring that our debt was paid in full and cancelled.  His one sacrifice was perfect and sufficient for the sins of all God’s people.


There is nothing you can or need add to the finished work of Jesus Christ. The Father accepts The Son’s blood as Sufficient, and sees His sacrifice as Perfect.


For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed…but with the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18)


Oh Believer!  Take all your refuge in Jesus Christ:  The Best Purifier.  Look nowhere else, and accept no substitutes.


His Blood is Effective




To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins

By HIS Blood…and made us to be a Kingdom and Priests

To serve His God and Father, to Him be glory and

Power forever and ever!



Grace and peace be yours in abundance through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

Pastoral letter 161: Jesus Christ our Best Promise

May 31st, 2012


Jesus Christ our Best Promise

Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant

(Hebrews 7:22)

Printable version: pastoral letter 161

Dear Family in Christ,

Please take a few minutes and read Hebrews Chapter 7.  Enjoy it!

As we continue our journey through the letter of Hebrews, let’s remember that so far we have seen that Jesus Christ is our Best Brother, our Best Prophet, and our Best Priest.  Let’s also remember that we are learning that the very health of our eternal souls is dependent upon the value and worth of that which we love the most.  Hence, discovering more of Jesus Christ, and loving Him in ever new and deepening ways is the way to true spiritual health and wholeness.

How we need the Lord!  We need to see all that we can of Jesus Christ.  The Bible shows us so many facets of Jesus Christ.  We see Him from so many different angles, in so many different lights.  Indeed, the Bible has so many gems to give up to those who will take the time to hunt for them!  Diligent searchers are forever finding diamonds and rubies of Truth regarding Jesus Christ….right in their own Bibles!

Today we will discover that Jesus Christ is our Best Promise.  This discovery is really a follow-on, or sub-theme of what we discovered last week, that Jesus Christ is our Best Priest.  Remember that a “priest” is a “bridge-builder”, or, one who secures and nurtures another’s relationship with God.  Our key verse for our discovery is Hebrews 7:22:

Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant

A “Covenant” can be seen as a “promise”.  It is far more than a mere contract.  It is much more powerful and secure.  It is built upon trust.  It cannot be violated.  In this case, it is initiated by none other than God Himself, and guaranteed by none other than Jesus Christ, being put into effect by His very shed blood.  It is therefore the strongest covenant in all history, the Best Promise in all the Universe.

Let’s take some time and explore it!

Take a moment and jump ahead a chapter and read Hebrews 8:6:

…the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the

Covenant of which He is mediator is superior to the old one

And it is founded on better promises.

The entire argument of Hebrews here is that Jesus Christ ministers as High Priest over a better Covenant (than the Old Testament one which Israel was living under).  This Covenant is better because it is founded by and guaranteed by Jesus Himself.  In being better, it replaces the old.

But wait a minute!  We can almost hear a faithful Jewish friend saying:  “You say Jesus is a faithful priest over a better Covenant, but hold on a minute!  He does not even come from the right family!  All Jewish priests come from Levi’s family!  Jesus comes from Judah’s line!  So…you are asking us to trade in our priests…all the hundreds of them, ones that we can see and touch and talk to, for your priest, an invisible one that we cannot even see, and who is from the wrong family to boot…!”

Well, how do we get out of this?  Our Jewish friend is right … to a degree.  The “standard” line for the priesthood in Israel was the line of Levi.  There were thousands of levitical priests.  There were pages and chapters, even a whole book in the Bible dedicated to these priests.  And, yes, Jesus was not of the levitical line.  The Book of Hebrews admits these two truths and makes no attempt to hide the fact that Jesus “…belonged to a different tribe, and no-one from that tribe has ever served at the altar.” (7:13).

But!  There was another priesthood in the Old Testament.  It was very different from the levitical priesthood.  It only ever had one member.  It was only ever mentioned twice, once in Genesis 14, and once in Psalm 110, getting a meager total of 4 verses limelight in all!  The priest was named as Melchizedek. His name meant “King of Righteousness” and he was king of Salem, which meant “King of Peace”.

Hebrews 5:10 tells us that God designated Jesus to be High Priest from this order.  Hebrews 6:20 tells us that Jesus holds this priestly office of Melchizedek forever.

So here is our answer!  Jesus is a Priest, a High Priest, a legitimate High Priest because He comes from the priesthood of Melchizedek.

So, how is this line better than the “standard” line of Levi?  How does this link make Jesus a better priest who makes a better promise?  What difference does it make to us today?

First, this priesthood is better because it is a Primary Priesthood.  It was put into place long before the levitical priesthood.  That is the big point of the somewhat cryptic verses in Hebrews 7:1-10.  Long before Levi was even born, when, as a descendent of Abraham he was still “in” Abraham, Abraham acknowledged Melchizedek as Priest unto God.

The argument goes like this:

“If Abraham, the spiritual father of all the faithful, the physical father of all the Levitical priests, honoured Melchizedek as greater than himself, and in turn was blessed by Melchizedek, then it stands that any priest of Melchizedek’s order (there is only one other, Jesus) will be greater than any priest from Abraham’s order.”

Next, this priesthood is better because it is a permanent priesthood.  Just look!  Verse 16: Jesus reigns by an “indestructible life.” Verses 17 and 21:  Jesus is a “priest forever”.  Verse 24: Jesus “lives forever”. Verse 25: Jesus “always lives”.  Verse 28:  Jesus is “perfect forever”.

Now the implications of this for the believer are profound!  Thousands of priests from Levi have come and gone.  They live, they die.  Some good, some bad.  But this one priest, this Jesus, who lives forever, promises a permanence in terms of our salvation and security.  This one Priest who secures my salvation and insures it forever, is therefore able to “save completely those who come to God through Him” (v25).  That word “completely” means “thoroughly” and “permanently”.

Just take a minute (or an hour!) to consider One who promises and is able to “save completely.

Finally, Jesus’ priesthood is better because it is a perfect priesthood.  The thousands and thousands of priests in Israel could not promise what this one Priest, Jesus can promise, because they were “weak” (vv 18,28).  Sin had weakened every one of these many priests.  They had their own problems to deal with.  They “made nothing perfect”, literally meaning that they “could not finish the job”.  They could not guarantee to keep anyone to the end.  They could make no such promise, for they were weak in themselves.

How exhausted they must have been offering endless sacrifices for their own sins as well as for the millions of sins of Israel!

But Jesus “sacrificed for sins once and for all when He offered Himself” (v 27), and now He can promise to lose none that the Father has given Him, but raise them up at the last day (John 6:39)!

Hallelujah!  What a Saviour!

The Best Priest makes the Best Promise!

This Priest:  “meets our need” (v 26), which is to be reconciled to God.  He “always lives to intercede for us”(v 25). Jesus will never retire from being our Priest.  His atoning work will never lose its efficacy.  Not ten-thousand by ten-thousand years from now! This Perfect Priest makes Perfect Promises to make perfect a way for imperfect sinners to approach and worship a Holy God.

Again, Hallelujah!  What a Saviour

Settle it now.  Entrust your entire being to the Lord Jesus!  His promise to save is sure because it is founded upon His very nature as the Son of God.  Rest your case with Him.  Give Him your souls for safe-keeping.  Trust Him as your Priest.  Trust in His promises toward you.

…He has given us His very great and precious promises…

(2 Peter 1:4)

Enjoy being saved by Jesus Today!

Pastoral Letter 160

May 10th, 2012


 Printable version: Pastoral letter 160


The following article was inspired by the saintly William Gurnall (1617-1679) in his book The Christian in Complete Armour.



How we need wisdom and encouragement in order to follow Jesus well!  How important it is that we learn of others who have followed before us and finished the course.  Sadly, many make a ruin of their faith.  Some begin well, but do not finish well.


If you would be one who not only starts the race, but finishes the race, then the following exhortation will prove to be of immense value to you.  I want to share five essentials with you for keeping on your way to Heaven.  These are tried and true.  Others who have run well will have discovered that the following five helps have been indispensable in running well and finishing well.


But first, let us remind ourselves and assure ourselves that God’s part is sure and certain in this matter.  The Lord wants every believer to finish well.  Be sure of His heart in this matter.  He will provide all the grace necessary.  His Word, His Spirit, and His Church are all ready and waiting to come to our aid and encourage us continually along our way to Heaven.  Indeed:


  • Jesus wants all that the Father has given Him to “be with Him where He is and to behold His Glory” (John 17:24)


  • He promises to “complete what He has begun in us” (Philippians 1:6)


  • He assures us that He will “lose none that the Father has given, but raise them up at the last day” (John 6:39).


His part is sure and certain.  But His faithfulness in our salvation is not to make us lazy.  We are not merely to sit back and coast into Heaven!  The Bible has many exhortations for us in response to God’s faithfulness.  Grace is not a license to laziness but a motivator to diligence.  Grace is free, but it is proven by diligence in the things of God.


The following helps to keeping on your way to Heaven are active and ongoing responses to the Grace of God.  They are not new; they are not original.  They are time-tested and true.


Help Number One:


If you would keep on your way to Heaven, if you would finish well, then:

Declare War upon the Sins of Your Own Heart


Most of us have no problem declaring war on sins…as long as they are others’ sins.  But it is our own hearts which we must be diligent over.  Indeed we should “above all else guard our hearts” (Proverbs 4:23).


Now some sins are comparatively easy to do away with.  Others are very difficult.  The secret sins of the heart are the most difficult and deadly of all!  Pride, envy, lust, greed, these can be particularly defiant and dangerous.  The diligent Christian will not make peace with them!  He will declare an unending war against them.  He may have to make a thousand trips to the cross in brokenness, confession, and repentance, he may have to cry out for grace many times, but he will not make peace with any sin, least of all these deep heart sins.


The Bible says that we are to “put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature” (Colossians 3:5), considering ourselves to be “dead to sin, and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:11).


God will supply all of the grace that we need to wage this holy war.  But we must declare it, and settle for nothing less than victory…even if we have to die fighting!


Help Number Two:


If you would keep on you way to Heaven, running well and finishing well, you must:

Determine Not to Live After the Ways of the World


The Bible warns us:  “Love not the world, nor the things of the world” (1 John 2:15).  This does not mean that as Christians we become ascetics, never enjoying the good things that God has given to us.  It does mean that we do not derive our pleasure from treasuring a world which scorns the very God that made it.  “Worldly Christians” are strange animals.  They call Christ their Saviour, but they look to the world as their satisfier.


If you love the world, the world and its cares may well choke out the good seed of the Gospel, rendering you fruitless, or worse, spiritually dead.  Determine that Christ and His Gospel will be your source of joy and fullness.  Resolve right now that you will not make it your aim to “fit in” to a world which crucified your Saviour.  Offer your whole self as a “living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1) as the only fitting response to the bountiful mercies of God received through Jesus Christ. Don’t be afraid to be different because of Jesus.  Make it your happy aim to be as holy as you can possibly be this side of Heaven.

Help Number Three:

If you would keep on your way to Heaven, resolve:


To Keep Going when Others Quit


It is a sad truth that some begin, but do not finish.  There can be little more discouraging than a quitter.  Perhaps the saddest line in the Bible is the brief “For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10).


Now it is the testimony of virtually every follower of Jesus that there are times when you must follow Him all alone.  There is such sweetness in Christian fellowship, such sadness when that fellowship ceases because one with whom you walked has gone back.  But it is often in the lonely times that discipleship is proven.


One with whom you are walking now may prove to be a Demas to you one day.  Determine now that Christ will be your constant companion, and your deepest friend.  Be deeply thankful for every brother or sister who walks with you, especially for those most loyal; but do not put your final trust in any man, but only in Jesus.  Jesus alone can say “I will never leave you or forsake you”(Hebrews 13:5)


Help Number Four:

If you would keep on your way to Heaven, resolve today:


To trust in God when you cannot find Him


Praise God for those times when the Lord seems so very close.  There are times when the Bible seems to open right up to us, prayer is so real and vibrant.  Heaven seems within reach and God has drawn nigh.


But the Christian life also has its valleys.  Jesus Christ is a Shepherd, not a tour guide.  He leads us through valleys and shadow lands.  He sometimes withdraws, not His covenant of saving love, but His sweetness, and for reasons sometimes known only to Him.  The life of faith has its seasons: some are bright and summery; some are dreary and winter like.


If you would keep on your way toward Heaven, then you must trust in the Lord even when you cannot find Him.  You must be willing to say with the Psalmist “I waited patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 40:1) when the Lord takes His time over you.  The Psalmist does not tell us how long he waited!  But he does tell us that he was in a pit!  And God was slow enough that he had to be “patient”.


During such times we have to trust in what we have come to know about the character of God from His Word and from our history with Him.  This is surely what David did when he “strengthened himself in the Lord” (1 Samuel 30:6).



Help Number Five:

If you would keep on your way to Heaven, running well until you see Jesus:


Make certain that your days on earth and your service to the Lord finish together

Beware of living too long!  We dare not outlive our desire to serve Jesus.  We should aim that our earthly days and our earthly service should go off stage together.  Certainly as strength wanes, we may have to surrender certain forms of service.  But we can always be useful to the Lord and His Kingdom in some valuable way.


If in your heart you are thinking “I will serve Jesus for a while, but then I want to retire and live out my days in ease and self-service, you may well ruin your soul in your latter days.  The aged Apostle could humbly but confidently say:  “…the time for my departure has come I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race…” (2 Tim 4:7).  We should aspire to live well for Jesus until our very last breath, and trust God to give us grace to do so.  We should believe that God will save the “best wine” for the end of our lives!




May the Lord Jesus give us all grace to run well, and to finish well.  He is sure and faithful; He will give us all the grace we need to live faithfully until we see His face, and fall into His embrace.


“May the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word…

To Him who is able to keep you from falling and present you before His glorious presence faultless and with great joy – to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power, and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord before all ages, now and forevermore. Amen!”

(2 Thessalonians 2:16; Jude 24)