Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 20 November 2017

The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp.  Hebrews 13, verse 11.

Word came out today that Charles Manson died over the weekend.  Charlie masterminded the 1969 grisly Tate-LaBianca killing spree, convincing his young, drug-addicted followers to savagely murder for him.  Manson had lived a tortured life of abuse and crime, and the late 1960s counter-culture was a petri dish in which he enthusiastically grew the bacillus of true hatred.  Charlie didn’t kill anyone himself:   he directed others to do it for him.  Originally sentenced to death, Manson’s sentence was commuted to life in prison after California changed its death penalty laws.  In the (over) 45 years since, Manson gave no sign that he repented of his heinous crimes, and there’s no reason to believe he did so at his end.   Hell may very well be one soul richer this morning.

Do you think Jesus is grieved at that?   I do.  I’ve talked about how Jesus loved Osama Bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, and the most notorious people in history.  He created each of us as “very good” and loves us unconditionally.  Even mass murderers, criminals, and people who do the worst things we can imagine.   So if Charlie checked into a hellish eternity yesterday, it happened in spite of Jesus love and that must sadden our Savior.   It’s as if His sacrifice was burned up for nothing.

The verses associated with this one talk about sin offerings.   During the time after the Ten Commandments, God revealed to Moses how He wanted His people to recognize their need for atonement.  The Israelites could no more atone for their own sins than we can, so God provided them with a system of animal sacrifices that would remind them of their spiritual dependency on Him.  Once a year, a Levite high priest would slay an animal, sprinkle it’s blood in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle, and ‘make atonement’ for all the peoples’ sins.   Afterwards, what was left of the animal would be taken outside the camp and burned to ashes, then the ashes would be sprinkled in a place that had been made ceremonially ‘clean.’   All this was done to remind Israel that it was sinful and that it should depend completely on God for its salvation as much as it did for it’s three squares, air, shelter, and safety.

You know where this is going:  Jesus was our sin offering.   Jesus was the ultimate offering to God Almighty to atone for our myriad sins and appease His holy, righteous anger.  His blood sprinkles on all of us.   He was executed outside the city, buried outside the city, even rose outside the city.  Jesus Christ did for mankind the most important thing that mankind couldn’t do for itself.

When we turn our backs on this truth, we are keeping Jesus outside our camp.  “I’d never do that.   I’d never act like the Manson Family” you or I would say.  But have we considered how we do it every day?   Every time we embrace even petty evil, we side with what defined Charlie Manson.   I’ve never killed anyone but I’ve harbored deep grudges and hatred.   I’ve followed idols.   I’ve hurt and destroyed things Jesus commanded me not too.   I’ve done evil just as you have, and when I have I have sided with the evil that drove Manson.   What do we make of Charlie?

In-between drugs, sex, violence, and helter skelter, Manson once declared himself to be Jesus.   His followers believed it and did his bidding.  I was only a small child when all this happened, and I grew up learning about the things the “Manson Family” did in its savage killing spree.   It was confusing and hard to understand, how someone could orchestrate such unspeakable evil and convince others to follow.  But now that I’m an adult, I look back and realize it really isn’t very hard to understand.   Evil is as old as Eden and as common as the air we breathe.   Charlie kept Jesus outside the camp of his life for all his life.   He rejected God’s invitation to be at peace, and in doing so he led astray other equally confused people.   In rejecting Jesus, there could be no sin offering for Charlie but himself, and all that’s left now are worthless ashes.  I believe that must grieve Jesus.   I picture Him today, sitting alone and contemplating the loss.   We walk up to Him and say “is everything ok Lord?”  “Yes,” He might reply, “but I’m a little sad right now because one of my dear people has gone.”   He might even have real tears in his eyes for Charles Manson and everybody else who goes astray forever.

Mass killing has become common place in our society; that’s a legacy of the Manson Family.  None of his followers has ever been released from prison (though one is up for parole at this time).   One of his acolytes even tried to a president.  Yet the evil Charles Manson came to represent is his legacy.  Manson was consumed by it.   That evil tries to permeate everything we do, and it works on us daily to separate us from God because evil is lonely and desires bad company.  It rages at all that is good in the world.   Will you let it overtake you?  For those of us left behind, this message is clear.   Don’t be Charlie.

For further reading:  Leviticus 16:15, Exodus 29:14, Leviticus 4:12, Leviticus 4:21.

Lord, bless You for Your deep mercy, for Your sacrifice, for Your unending love.   Help me to turn away evil in my life today by relying fully on You.

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Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 14 September 2017

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  Hebrews 12, verse 4.

“I ain’t got time to bleed.”   That quote is 30 years old this year.   In case you don’t know where it came from, it entered the pop culture lexicon in the movie “Predator,” starring Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Jesse “the Body” Ventura.   Let’s not discuss Arnold; our focus is on “the Body.”   You’ll recall that Jesse Ventura had been a Navy Seal, then a professional actor.   After Predator and a few other less than memorable movies, Jesse ventured into politics.  He was eventually elected governor of my home state of Minnesota where his performance was less than stellar.   His tough-guy approach to governing didn’t quite fit in. Harkening back to Hollywood, “I ain’t got time to bleed” was Jesse’s most famous line in the movie, uttered before his character became prey to the alien predator.

When you’re out of time, you bleed.   Better to make time to bleed now.   Whether you make time for it or not, here on this planet, you’re gonna bleed.

When you’re really down for the struggle, you commit your blood to it.  In other words, if something means enough to you, you’d better be willing to die for it.   Your spouse, your children, your pride, your image, maybe even your country:   for these things, most people make the time to bleed.   For most people, these things are important enough to die for.  Ask Jesus about it.   After all, you were important enough for Him to die for.   Jesus had time to bleed because His bleeding made it possible for your peace and your life after bloody death.

Do you believe enough to die?

In the developed world, when most people die their bodies are bled dry.   Whether you were ready to die or not, when you die in the West, you’re gonna bleed.  The undertaker cuts open your body and opens an artery until all your blood is drained.   Then they’ll sew you up.   They will then inject a solution of formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, methanol, ethanol, phenol, water, and dyes back into your cadaver in order to simulate a life-like skin-tone (see https://www.everplans.com/articles/the-embalming-process-explicit).  Yep, it’s gruesome, but that’s what happens.

When you’re out of time, you bleed.   At that time – and there will be ‘that time’ for all of us one day – it won’t matter whether or not you bled when you still had time.   Were you a giver, giving from your heart to live out the calling Jesus gives you, living out His fruit of His Spirit?   Or were you Jesse the Body, raging day to day because ‘I ain’t go time to bleed?”

Tell me:   is what you believe important enough for you to allow someone to kill you for it?

The fact is, Jesse had it all wrong.  If you really want to overcome the temptations of our world, you make time to bleed.   If you struggle against them, it’ll cost you.   You’ll be persecuted, attacked, maybe destroyed.   It (literally) may kill you.   If you believe enough in resisting the temptation of sin, you’ll bleed.   You’ll bleed emotionally.  You’ll bleed rhetorically.   You’ll probably bleed physically.   All this will happen because sin and it’s father, Satan, are the ultimate predators.

And resisting the urge to sin, whatever your pet sin might be, is depressing.   It’ll bleed you from the inside out.  It’s tough to fight off the voices that tell you “just one more.”  It’s wearying to have to say “no” when it would feel so good, so right, to simply give in.  The predator knows that.   He’s a damned coward, you know.   He only attacks when we’re weak because we’re easier to overcome when we’re weakened.   Yet if you truly believe in this Jesus and all He’s called you to be for Him, you resist.   You hurt; you struggle; you’ll bleed.  It’s important, you know.   It’s what Christ did.

I’m sorry if this hurts; I’m sorry if you came here today looking for some happy uplifting words to get you through your day.  That isn’t what’s on deck for today.   This is a harsher truth.  Today there is the sober reminder that, if you haven’t resisted the devil to the point of it shedding your blood, then you aren’t broken yet.   Much as it may hurt, there will be more pain in store for you.   It’s going to cost you blood.   Life is a one-way death trip, and the only thing that’ll get you through it is blood:  your believing in Jesus’ redeeming blood to the point of the world taking your own.  Take heart, then, in knowing that it cost Jesus His as well.   He’s right beside you as you struggle.   When you dig for that courage to resist, that urge to go on just a little more, that’s Jesus’ Spirit building you up.   Putting strength in your resolve and steel in your spine.   Jesse Ventura could only dream of that.  I hope he has time for it.

For further reading:  Hebrews 10: 32-34, Hebrews 13:13.

Lord, when I bleed, let me bleed in service to You.


 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 13 April 2017, Maundy Thursday

Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.  Hebrews 10, verses 2-4.

Today is Maundy Thursday 2017.   Today is the reason why animal sacrifices became unnecessary.  Today we commemorate God giving Himself up so that they would no longer be necessary.   That sacrifice we commemorate tomorrow, on Good Friday. But for now, today is a sad day of celebratory mourning, a time when we remember Jesus instituting the miracle of communion and forgiveness while facing the spiritual torment of Gethsemene, then Golgotha tomorrow.

As part of my own remembrance, yesterday I watched “The Passion of the Christ.”   I try to do this every year during Holy Week because it keeps my faith edgy.   The movie is so graphic and rightfully so since it portrays the most graphic murder ever perpetrated on a man.  I kept it on the TV in my office while I worked, and glanced over at it throughout the afternoon.  The more I watch the movie, though, the more I reach the same conclusion.

I feel sorry for Judas.

I’ve written this before but I feel sorry for Judas Iscariot.   He brought his woes on himself.   Nobody forced Him to betray the Son of Man but Judas did it willingly, even enthusiastically.  I know:  he was a greedy, selfish, sinful, detestable bastard.   Conniving, evil, deceitful; sounds like many of my friends and fellow sinners, actually.  No, I’m not equivocating because I’ve never sold out the Son of God for 30 pieces of silver.   My sins are my own and they have denied Jesus as surely as did Judas, Peter, or any of His other best friends who abandoned Him in His most desperate hours.

Yet I feel sorry for Judas because he is pathetic.

When Judas absorbed the guilt of his sins, he forgot all about Jesus.   Maybe it was that he couldn’t bring himself to even think about Jesus or what he had done to his friend and savior.   Perhaps the guilt was too crushing and he simply gave in to the worst temptation.   It’s possible that Judas didn’t understand the new covenant that Jesus had just explained to him in that Passover supper that first Maundy Thursday evening.  Or how it would supersede those sacrifices that dated back to the days of Noah or before.

Whatever happened, Judas snapped and killed himself.   He was cold and dead before Jesus was even nailed to the cross that Good Friday.  I feel sorry for him, have pity on him, and I honestly hope something in him turned back before the life snuffed out of his body.   It isn’t up to me, but I hope there’s a place in heaven for Judas.   If there isn’t a place for people who do things as supremely reprehensible as what Judas did, then there isn’t a place for any of us.   The key is belief.   Judas lost his belief, his faith, in Jesus if he ever really had it in the first place.

He lived in a time when people still fully believed that animal sacrifices atoned for human sins.   The whole purpose of the Jewish temple was to worship Yahweh, the almighty I AM.   Integral to that worship was the Mosaic sacrificial system where doves, lambs, and bulls were slaughtered and brought to the altar.   There was even an annual Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur, which is still commemorated by Jews today) in which the high priest took that animal blood and sprinkled it on the articles in the Most Holy Place.   By the time of Jesus and Judas, the Ark of the Covenant (God’s mercy seat) was long gone from the temple, having disappeared hundreds of years before.   Yet the Temple still contained a Most Holy Place – a Holy of Holies – where worshippers thought God was still present.  Once a year, the priest went into the Most Holy Place and sprinkled animal blood.

And it did nothing.  Yes, I said that.   It did nothing.   Even from the start of sacrifices it was only faith in God that would bring atonement.   Only God could fully atone for man’s sins because imperfect man could not.   The sacrifices were an expression of that faith, not the actual atonement.  Thus, when Jesus died, He and only He fully atoned as a true sacrifice for the terrible sins of His most cherished creation, man.

This was the world in which Judas lived and from which he committed suicide.   Even as a disciple closely walking with the incarnate God for years, he never made the connection between Jesus and sacrifice.  I feel sorry for him.   “The Passion of the Christ” shows him to be mentally anguished up to the end, tortured by demons, tortured by his sins.   The Bible doesn’t insist that people who commit suicide are damned, though it does paint suicide as a sin.   If Judas felt such terrible anguish that he couldn’t go on, I sincerely hope that, in his final seconds here, he found comfort in repentance and a place in paradise beyond.   That isn’t up to us:  it’s up to God.   Someday, hopefully many years from now, we’ll learn what happened.

For further reading:  Hebrews 9:9.

Lord, I praise You in mourning and celebration for the sacrifice You gave of Yourself.   Have mercy on Judas and others, and .

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 15 March 2017

He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.  Hebrews 9, verse 12.

Blood again.   This verse continues the ones from earlier in chapter 9, the ones that talk about how blood is needed for the sacrifice.  How do I put this?   I don’t understand why all this happened.   Logically speaking, I don’t understand the connection between Jesus’ blood and eternal salvation.  I really don’t.  He who could not die died.   He who could not sin took on all sin.   He who could do no wrong became wrong incarnate, through and through.   He who was completely innocent became completely guilty.  Why was blood required to make all that happened?   Yes, I know the history of it, the ties to animal sacrifices, the ancient Hebrew rituals commanded by God.   I understand the symbolism, and the physiological connection of blood and life.  I get all that.   I simply don’t understand WHY.  It’s lost on me.

That’s ok.   Love is illogical.  Love defies reason, logic, and process.   It’s simply the divine gift and there may be no fully explaining it in ways we’d understand this side of eternity.  The way out of this self-manufactured conundrum is to understand that I don’t need to understand it completely.   You don’t need to understand it completely.   It’s just fine that the finer points of ecclesiastical doctrine and Divine intention remain unknown when you get down to brass tacks.

Hint:   they were unknown to the high priest.   He could tell you, second by second, how to do everything he was doing and the history of it going all the way back to the first priest to enter the Most Holy Place.   I assume that would be Aaron, somewhere in the desert of Sinai, walking gingerly into God’s dwelling among men.  But the why?   Why did God require blood?   Why blood alone would make atonement?   I’m betting it was lost on him too.   I imagine that, if you had a long discussion with Aaron, his bottom line response would end up being “because God said so.”

That’s the ticket!   That’s the reason.   It’s reason enough.

It’s reason enough to know that God commanded it.  If you truly submit to God, you don’t need reason beyond that.  What’s more, it’s enough to know that God made it so for Jesus’ blood to be the only true sacrifice that would ever be needed to gain eternal salvation of mankind.   He who didn’t need to shed His own blood gave all of it up willingly, from the heart, from His soul.   He who was without sin and didn’t deserve to die, who hadn’t earned the death penalty for sin, willingly died for people who wouldn’t be willing to die for Him.   Why?   Because God said so.

Because God said so and predicted the need for it going all the way back to the fall of man.  Before He even spoke to Eve or Adam about their sin, He cursed Satan the tempter and laid out the penalty that Satan would pay.   “Cursed are you…He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”   Sin would be separate from God, intolerable and cursed.  There would be blood – and there weren’t even animal sacrifices yet; there wouldn’t be for hundreds of years – and it would forever vanquish sin.  It would then forever re-establish communion between men and their creator.  But it would require blood, first to represent and teach, then to actually do all that was necessary.

Why?   Because even way back in Eden, just before God expelled men from that paradise, God said so.   And then, because God shed His own blood to restore that communion between His favored beings and Himself, He, Jesus His Son, was fully able to re-enter heaven and present full atonement for all of mankind’s sin.   From Eve and Adam all the way down to Dave Terry, you, and everyone else here on Earth, Jesus entered the Most Holy Place of the presence of God and presented Himself in our place.   Nothing more is required; nothing more is necessary.   Indeed, nothing more could ever make it better or more complete.   Indeed, pursuing more would itself be an act of vain sin.   Best to turn away from that.

We don’t need to understand God’s motivation beyond knowing that He did it and that He loves us.   When all reason and logic fail, these will endure.  When you consider God’s ‘why’ in that light, ‘because He said so’ isn’t some response to a petulant child.  In that light, it’s the greatest gift He could ever give.

For further reading:  Leviticus 16:6, Hebrews 10:4, Hebrews 10:24-28, Genesis 3:14-15.

Lord, thank You for Your sacrifice of Your blood, for how You love us that much.

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 9 March 2017

When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning.  Hebrews 9, verses 6-9.

Think about that statement:  “never without blood.”   I’m borrowing more from Chad Bird’s teaching on this; also some Patrick Miller and Bill Brimer, so thank them for the background.

Believing in God is a bloody deal.   Not British slang “bloody” as in “that bloody thing.”  That’s almost cute in a cheeky way.  No, this talk of blood is carnage.  It’s war.   It’s deadly serious because it demands from you that very thing that carries life throughout your body.   It’s scarlet, red, coating, oozing and sticky, just like your sins.   Bleeding to death can kill you and it can hurt.  A few years ago, there was a violent, disturbing movie called “There Will Be Blood” with Daniel Day Lewis.   That’s an appropriate byline for following Jesus.

If you say you believe in Jesus, you’re signing up to that.   Your life may not end in bleeding out but that’s the devotion Jesus asks from you.   He wants everything and He wants it no matter the cost…because He already paid that cost in ways you can’t.   Sure, we can sing “nothing but the blood of Jesus” and talk about how Jesus washes us white in His blood.   I’m not disparaging any of that; it’s all true.   But I’m quoting the verse above that talks about “never without blood.”  Whenever the high priest entered the Most Holy Place on the Day of Atonement, he did so wearing the sticky, steaming blood of a sacrifice.

Noodle that thought.   Here’s this pious, upright, Godly man who has performed all the rites God demanded and he puts blood on his body, on his hands.   He literally has blood on his hands from a death (albeit the death of an animal).   He goes into the Most Holy Place and sprinkles that blood on the veil covering it.  He sprinkles/throws blood on the altar of God.   He literally covers God in blood.   This after performing ritual sacrifices that spilled GALLONS OF BLOOD in front of the tabernacle to ‘forgive’ the sins of the people.

You knows where this goes.   When Jesus died, He shed His own blood with every scourge of the Roman whip, with each of the nails driven through His hands and feet, and with every heave of His slowly dying body just to get a breath.   That blood, there and then, replaced the need for those animal sacrifices.   There would no longer be a need for a disconnected high priest to perform representative sacrifices.   The true high priest of the universe had performed the only necessary sacrifice that was done once for all to give them forever.

And it was done with blood.   Lots of blood.   Gallons, rivers, torrents of blood.   You don’t think it was like a slaughterhouse there in front of the tabernacle, the dwelling place of God?   It was.  It was like a trench along the Western Front.   It was a Civil War hospital with screaming men and bleeding, shell-shredded limbs.  It was as bloody, gory, and disquieting as any meat-house you can think of today.   Frightened animals screaming and writhing in pain, warm and sticky blood shooting all over the priest and his acolytes, pools of it gathering on the ground.   It was starkly gory, gruesomely upsetting to those who didn’t understand it.

Just like that day on Calvary.   It was torture and there was blood.

It was what God wanted.   This was how He wanted His people to worship Him, right?  Let’s put it another way and cut through some 21st century fiction we call ‘sensibility.”  Is God a gory old man?   Maybe.   Feel free to ask Him someday.   It’s not my place to judge whether He is or not.   I’m simply stating a really cold hard truth to you.   Blood carries life all throughout the body.   You can’t live without blood.   Indeed, if you lose only a little bit (compared to all that is in your veins), you’ll fade and quickly die.   God DEMANDS that blood.   He always has; He always will.   He wants you to give it all to Him.

Everything you cherish, everything you love, everything you know was bought in a tortured, gruesome, horrifying way by an innocent carpenter from Judea who just happened to be God in the flesh.  He demanded it.   He knew that only He could do it.   He volunteered to do it.   He volunteered to do it for  you…with His own blood.  What’s more, in your accepting His covering blood over you, He calls you do to the exact same thing.   You can’t offer atonement sacrifice for anything, but Jesus calls you right here, right now, to willingly, even enthusiastically bleed out every drop of your own blood if that’s where His ministry takes you.   He asks for one hundred percent of your life.  “Nothing but the blood of Jesus” isn’t just some catchy hymn that’s been re-mastered for Christian pop radio.   It’s a war cry.   How will you respond?

For further reading:  Numbers 28:3, Leviticus 16, Hebrews 5:2-3, Hebrews 7:19, Hebrews 10:1, Hebrews 5:1, Hebrews 8:3, John 14:6.

My Lord, Your covering blood saves me.   Thank You for this sacrifice, the key event in all of history.   Thank You for saving me, for saving all of us.

 

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 23 January 2017

If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? Hebrews 7, verse 11.

Ah, a question for the ages.   If God gave us what He said we needed, why did He have to give us something else?   If God said the original priests could atone for sins, why Jesus?   You know the answer.   I’m betting you simply don’t want to admit it.

It’s not you:  it’s me.   It’s not me:  it’s you.   It’s us.   It’s in us.   It’s something that controls us.  It’s our sins.   Chucka, chucka, chucka.   Big deal; we already know that, right?  Actually, it is sort of a big deal, and that really stinks yet it’s the first of all first principles.

Your pastor is a sinful man.  All pastors are sinful men.   MLK Day was one week ago and most Americans regard Martin Luther King as having been a great man, an upright and moral man who said and did great things that needed to be said and done.   Obscured in history is the fact that he was also a sinner.   Time has revealed that he had at least one extramarital affair during his ministry; he may have had many.   Being familiar with that particular sin myself, perhaps the best I should say is “good men sometimes do bad things, too.”  Remember Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker?   Good men who brought many people to real faith but who also lived double lives of hypocrisy like MLK and me and you.

Next time you see your pastor, remember that he’s a sinner too.   He or she doesn’t have a special dispensation for sin, pope or no pope (and neither does the pope).  Pastors don’t have some special divine exemption from their sins.   They struggle with them just like everyone else.   Some struggle with them while they’re in active ministry for the Lord.  Indeed, in today’s ministry, you’ll meet men and women of the cloth who are right now dealing personally with their adultery, homosexuality, alcoholism, theft, dishonesty and even murder.  Just like you and me.   Just like Jimmy and MLK.   Just like the author of Hebrews.

And just like all those priests of Levi.   God Himself chose Levi’s, then Aaron’s, descendants to be His personal representatives.   Before Levi even knew his children and grandchildren, God knew them and had already chosen them to carry His Good News to people who needed it.   God knew they would be sinful, that some would resent their calling, that all of them would do some things (maybe many things) in their lives that were abhorrent to Him…and He chose them anyway.   He chose them anyway because He needed human messengers to share news about Him until He could finish making all things right.

He could only finish that work with someone who was without sin.   When the time was just right, God gave us Jesus to finish the job once and for all.  Only one person has ever lived who was without sin.   That’s just and only Jesus.   Only Jesus lived a perfect life, one not tainted with the stink of sin.   Only Jesus has ever lived that life, then heroically, willingly given it up to God’s holy purposes, in order that other people might live forever.  MLK didn’t do that; no pope has ever done that.   No televangelist could do that, and neither could you or I.   But Jesus did.

Why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?  Because of sin.  Because sin is blood-red serious.  I’m stained scarlet with it.   So are you.  So is your pastor, and your friends, and your newborn children and grandchildren.  Billy and Franklin Graham are sinners.  So was MLK, and Jimmy Swaggart, and so were Aaron and Levi and even Melchizedek if he was a descendant of Adam and Eve.   And all of us can be cleaned white as pure snow because of the scarlet sinless blood of Jesus of Nazareth.

For further reading:   Hebrews 8:7, Hebrews 10:1, Hebrews 5:6

Lord, thank You for the holy sacrifice of Your Son, the one true priest forever. 

 

Practical Proverbial, from Hebrews, 18 October 2016

For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Hebrews 2, verses 16-17.

Let’s start with the last part of these verses:   “that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.”   One of my friends, Wayne Vogt, wrote an entire comprehensive Bible study designed to train new believers in the fundamentals of Christianity.  His contention is that, if you’re going to start teaching people about the Christian faith, start with Jesus.   Don’t teach the Bible starting at Genesis.   Don’t go in chronological order.  That causes people to lose interest quickly.  Instead, start with Jesus because Jesus is the fulfillment of the Bible.   Then, later, teach the rest of it.

The reason for the life, death, and life of Jesus of Nazareth is for Him and Him alone to make atonement for the sins of the people.  If you don’t want to study anything else about Christianity, just memorize that sentence.   EVERYTHING about the faith and the Bible culminates in Jesus and what He did as God’s perfect sacrifice for humanity.

The ONLY way to atone for sins is by blood; that is one of the primary lessons that all of God’s law teaches us.   God Himself made this clear in the Old Testament, specifically in the book of Leviticus.   In Leviticus, God outlines to Moses how and when to consecrate priests who were to make offerings and sacrifices to God to atone for the sins of the Israelites.  In those ancient days, God commanded his people to sacrifice animals as reminders of how He delivers people from slavery to sin.  He commanded the sacrifices so that people could offer blood as a representation of their sins.  God didn’t NEED for people to sacrifice animals He created.   But they did; we do.   So God directed people to do it so they would learn the lesson that He is God.   They would learn this lesson by offering up the very thing that preserved life as a way to know that God Himself would ultimately forgive them of their wrongdoings.

Once per year, the high priest of the faith would consecrate himself according to detailed instructions that God gave to Moses.   He would then take blood and carefully, reverently enter the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle (later the Temple in Jerusalem).  There, the priest would sprinkle blood on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant (which wasn’t just the prop for an Indiana Jones movie).   This mattered because the cover was called the Mercy Seat and it was the very spot on Earth where God’s presence made physical contact with humanity.   This all took place on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  By doing these things in obedience to Him, God promised the people He would forgive their sins.

Yet it was only the picture of things to come.   Created animals couldn’t atone for man’s sins because the animal itself didn’t commit those sins.   Even a human sacrifice Wouldn’t suffice because, in our very nature, humans are sinful.   God wanted us to know that He provides everything and He and He alone would have the authority to forgive sins and make man clean from them.   Only God could offer up a perfect sacrifice, so He gave Himself to us as Jesus, who lived a life without committing even one sin.   When the time was just right – in other words, when God had revealed all He knew we needed to know – He offered Himself as that sacrifice, letting sinful men accuse and convict Him to death of crimes He didn’t commit (just like the rest of our sins).   In doing so, God Himself made all things right again.   God Himself superseded the need for those animal sacrifices.   God Himself created a bridge for sinful men to be forgiven of our sins and come to Him blameless and clean.

He did it with His own blood.

Which is why I agree with my friend, Wayne, that the first, best way to teach people about the Christian faith is to start with Jesus.   Once someone understands why Jesus matters and what He did for us, then can branch into history, doctrine, prophecy, and the rest of the Bible.  Once someone understands needing Jesus, they begin to understand how we’re saved, as the hymn says, by nothing but the blood of Jesus.

For more reading:   Leviticus 16.

Lord Jesus, I praise You for Your giving Your holy blood to atone for my sins and the sins of all mankind.