The Incredible Atonement

Today I read Leviticus 15-17 and Acts 18. It is fascinating to think about all the Jewish people had to do to approach God and to atone for their sins. Reading through all the things the priests had to do in order to go to God and to be clean and holy before him makes me so thankful right now for all that Jesus has done for me. All the blood that had to be spilled to make people clean before God is incredible. Over and over again God said that that life of any creature is in the blood and it was that blood that made people holy. Being a pastor and hearing what the priest had to do in slaughtering animals and sprinkling blood on the ark of the covenant and doing that day in and day out as your “job” in the community is a crazy think to think about. Today we have direct access to God and can talk with him anytime. Not only that but the holy of holies that only the priest could enter is now found in our hearts as the Holy Spirit dwells within us. What an incredible gift we have that those who have gone before us never had!

I also was struck by the lamb or goat on whom was placed the sin of the people who was then taken out into the wilderness and set free as an example of the people’s sins being placed far from them and literally taken away. I don’t allow my sins to be taken away like that often enough. There are times I hang onto them as some kind of remembrance of how bad I am and I sulk over them when in reality those sins are already carried away just like they were on that goat. As I shared with a friend a couple weeks ago, our sins do not define us. Sure we need to confess and stop doing them and distance ourselves from them, but they do not define who we are as we are new creatures in Christ Jesus. We no longer have to carry that label but instead carry the title of children of the King. This is something that no one deserves yet because of Christ Jesus our Lord it is bestowed upon us. What a blessing that is to me this morning.

Lord, help me to be a man who sees his identity in you and lives up to that identity. Lord, I want to leave it all on the field so that I can stand before you and say I did my best for you. Please forgive me for the sins I have committed even in the last 24 hours. Help me to see more clearly the path you have laid out for me so I don’t go the wrong way. Thank you for atoning for my sins once and for all so that I no longer have to sacrifice animals to connect with you. Amen.

Remembering the Cross

Today I read Job 25, Mark 13-14, and RPJ chapter 39. The story of the Last Supper, Jesus’ betrayal, and Peter’s denial leave me with thoughts about my own life. Jesus predicts his own death and talks about the horrible circumstances that will happen in the future. The disciples want to know when these things will happen and rather than a date, which is what I am sure they had in mind, he gives them signs to look for and stays only the Father knows. Then Jesus redefines the passover for them by stating the bread is his body broken for them and the wine, the blood of the new covenant.

I wonder what these guys where thinking when Jesus taught all this stuff. First he talks about the end of the world which I am sure caused a lot of anxiety for them, then he talks about a new covenant. What I find fascinating is we have no record of them asking him what he was talking about. Either they already understood (highly unlikely based on their surprise at his actual death) or they were so confused and concerned about his earlier talk about the end of things and the bomb he dropped on them that one of them would betray him. Part of me wonders if any of them were really listening after he told them that! In this midst of this confusion Jesus models one of the most incredible ordinance of the church that we celebrate today. The new covenant with God in which Christ’s death is remembered as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, replacing the former sacrificial system and giving us the Holy Spirit and access to God without the need of a human priest. The disciples could not have even imagined exactly what Jesus meant by what he was doing at the time. The idea that the temples system as it was then would change was mind blowing, not only that but the fact that the Gentiles would be let in on it was not even on their radar.

As I reflect on all of this I am overwhelmed right now with a sense of gratitude. The fact that the God of the universe loved me enough to die for me even while I was still sinning and blowing him off. God did not wait for the ideal circumstances to be in place before he loved me and took care of the problem my sins had caused. Instead he came down into real life, lived a real life, and died a real death for people who rejected him and could care less. In Tom’s book he talks about not waiting for ideal circumstances to love but to love in our everyday messy lives. We need to get rid of unrealistic expectations. I know there are times I have very unrealistic expectations of how things should go in our family. When they don’t work out the way I envisioned them I can get mad and sulk or get discouraged and feel like a failure. There are so many things I have wanted to do but for one reason or another, they have not come to reality. It is frustrating. I was just beating myself up last night for not having a consistent time in the Word with my boys. Of course I imagine all kinds of problems they could face in the future when it comes to their faith and I started to get mad at myself. Now as I think about it, I am doing a lot of things to build faith into their lives in the everyday circumstances that come their way. So I am not as bad as I thought I was (though I am still badHappy. I need to remember the grace that God has given me in what he did for me on the cross, a kind of daily communion, and allow that grace to move me in loving others and having integrity in the way I live life.

Lord, thank you for your love for me. That you would die for me a sinner is humbling and reminds me that I need to love others in the same way, especially in the messiness of life. Please help me to remember you in the midst of my everyday life and especially when it comes to raising the boys you have entrusted to my care. Help them to become great men of faith who embody the love and sacrifice you have given to us. Amen.