Monthly Archives: September 2012

Eternal Sacrifice

For Adam and Eve, this was the first time the first couple witnessed death. Innocent blood spilled to cover the consequence of their sin. (Romans 6:23)

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.  (Hebrews 9:22)

 Christianity has often been characterized as a “bloody religion” due to the many references to blood.  Blood is in many of the songs we sing with lyrics like: “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus;” or “Alas and did my Savior bleed and did my Sovereign die;” or “Have you been to Jesus for the cleansing power?  Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?” and many others.  Unlike pagan religions that required multiple human sacrifices to keep at bay the multitude of insatiable demonic gods, Christianity offers only one human sacrifice that suffices for all and for all eternity.

From the fall of man, blood has been shed for the covering or the atonement of sin.  “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).  Those coats of skins required the shedding of blood on the part of some innocent animal.  Abel understood the concept of blood sacrifice when he made his offering to God, “And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering” (Genesis 4:4).  In gratitude for God’s salvation, Noah shed the blood of several animals as a burnt offering to God, “And the LORD smelled a sweet savor; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake” (Genesis 9:21).

Blood represents life, and life has great value to the Creator who created it.  God prohibited the consuming of blood:  “But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat” (Genesis 9:4).  He placed an even higher value on human life: “and surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man … Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Genesis 9:5-6).

The Israelites were instructed on the proper methods of animal sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.  All of these were perpetual offerings that foreshadowed the sacrifice Christ would make on the cross once and for all.  This was necessary because “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:12).  Christ “offered himself without spot to God” (Hebrews 9:14) “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).  “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10) and forevermore.

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What Is So Great About My Religion?

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)

I would have to say that I do not have a “religion.”  Religion (as defined by Dictionary.com) has to do with “a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects: the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.”  Religion is “the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.”  “Religion” seems to have a lot to do with what one does according to what one believes.  I can go to church religiously because I believe going to church is a good thing, or because that is what a “good” Christian does.  I can be a big believer in physical fitness and may visit the gym religiously, or I may be a strong believer in oral hygiene and brush and floss religiously.  I could be an environmentalist and champion the care and maintenance of the earth religiously.  I might even feel so strongly that I would risk my life in defense of the planet like the adherents of Greenpeace.  Taking all of this into consideration, I must reiterate that I do not have a religion.  Instead, what I have is a personal “relationship” with my Creator.

There are several reasons why my relationship with my Creator is greater than any religion.  First of all, He is Creator of the universe and everything that is in it.  Because of my relationship with Him, I am his child (John 1:12).  As His child, I share in the inheritance of all that He owns (Romans 8:17).

Secondly, there was nothing done on my part to earn this position.  From the fall of man, described in Genesis 3, we have been separated from God because of sin (Romans 3:10, 23) with no hope for reconciliation for eternity (Romans 6:23).  That separation is what the Bible calls “death.”  In that condition, there was nothing I could do close the gap of separation from my Creator.  Understanding this, God stepped from eternity into time in the form of Jesus Christ to pay the “wages of sin” that I owed (John 3:16).  What I could not do for myself, He did for me.  My part was simply to accept His free gift through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9).  What is even more remarkable is that I did not even have to generate my own faith.  The faith I needed to make this transaction, He gave to me, so that all I had to do was act on the faith that He provided.

Thirdly, there is nothing that I have to do to maintain my status.  When I accepted His offer of eternal life, He took up residence in me by way of His Spirit (Luke 11:14; John 14:17).  It is His Spirit in me that empowers me to live a life that pleases Him (Romans 8:5, 14; 1 Corinthians 3:16); there is no need for me to artificially generate a righteous life.  He even intercedes for me when I am unable to verbalize my own needs (Romans 8:26-27).  His Spirit in me strengthens me to overcome sin (1 John 4:4).

Finally, I have the promise of eternal life with my Creator.  There is no “religion” on earth that can guarantee eternal life to its adherents.  “Religions” offer the “possibility” of eternal life, if, when weighed in the cosmic balance, one has accrued more good deeds than bad, but the final determination is unknown until one passes from time into eternity.  How can one ever know one’s standing!  I do not have that dilemma.  The Bible tells me that my place is secure.  I am assured that whoever (that includes everyone and excludes no one) believes in Jesus has (present tense) eternal life (John 3:15-16, 36; 4:14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 10:28; Romans 6:23; 1 John 2:25; 5:11, 13).

Because of all of this, I have a strong desire to gather “religiously” with the family of God with whom I will spend eternity.  This is not an obligation, but a privilege.  As a child of God, I have a strong desire to please my Savior, not requisitely out of necessity, but out of love.  As a child of the Creator, the King of the universe, I have the honor to work for the advancement of His Kingdom.  What makes this “burden light” is that I do not have to do it in my own strength (Matthew 11:29-30).  For all of these reasons and more, my “relationship” is far superior to any “religion.”

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Rise And Shine

Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.  (Isaiah 60:1)

This verse always evokes memories of my mother rousting me out of bed for school on cold winter mornings with these encouraging words from Scripture, but these words are more than motivators for facing a new day.  On this eve of Rosh Hashanah, (September 16, 2012), they indeed offer hope for the coming Kingdom of God.

The command is given to “arise” in preparation to move forward as when God commanded Joshua: “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel” (Joshua 1:2).  The children of Israel had lost the only leader they had ever known, and now Joshua had some pretty big sandals to fill as the new leader of Israel.  What lay ahead was filled with uncertainty.  His only strength and sense of security was based solely on the promise of God.

Gideon was given a similar command:  “And it came to pass the same night, that the LORD said unto him, Arise, get thee down unto the host; for I have delivered it into thine hand” (Judges 7:9).  Gideon was not a warrior.  In fact, when our Lord first called upon him and said, “The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valour” (Judges 6:12), Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress, hiding from the Midianites.  I can imagine Gideon looking around and saying, “Who? Me?”  Yet, through a series of tests, Gideon learned to trust God’s leading, and, with just a small handful of men, defeat the Midianites who had been oppressing his people.

Sometimes the battle is spiritual:  “But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron? (2 Kings 1:3).  Speaking truth in a hostile environment is never easy, yet the boldness to do so came not from within Elijah, but from his dependence on God.

In these days, we are seeing a growing antagonism toward Christians, and it only promises to get worse, as the days of His return draw ever closer.  Whatever the call, we are instructed to “shine” as luminaries in the darkness that covers all the earth  (Isaiah 60:2)  “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).  We can shine “for [our] light has come.”  We shine not in our own strength, “but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee” (v. 2).  The promise is not futuristic; it is present:  “the glory of the LORD is [now, in the present] risen upon thee.”  So, rise and shine!

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Impossible

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened … If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; (Hebrews 6:4-6)

The fifth point of Calvinism is the “Perseverance of the Saints,” otherwise known as the principle of “once saved, always saved.”  This idea is certainly not without controversy.  There are many who believe rightly enough that we are saved “by grace through faith” and “not of works lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9), but they maintain that one must “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) and “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1) lest “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).  They would also point out (and not without reason) that the idea of “once saved, always saved” is a license to continue in a sinful lifestyle.  After all, once one has secured one’s permanent “fire insurance,” what is to keep one from sinning?

But the Scripture is clear on this point, i.e., the perseverance of the saints.  The same grace that cannot be earned by works can neither be maintained by works.  Of His sheep Jesus said, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29).  His sheep are made doubly secure.  Note the language that is used: “eternal life” – that is, life enduring without end; “shall never perish” – that is, life enduring that cannot be lost.  Many other such verses could be cited that testify to the same.

Our verse confirms that, if it were possible that one could fall away (and Scripture teaches otherwise), it would be impossible “to renew them again unto repentance; seeing that they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh” (v. 6).  As Jesus died upon the cross, He exclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30).  His salvific work is complete; there is nothing left for Him to do.  “But [Jesus], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12).  Therefore, “it is impossible for those who were once enlightened” (v. 4) to “fall away” (v. 6).

The question will naturally come up: what about those who once claimed to be Christians and have now renounced their faith and reject God?  The answer is really quite simple; they were never saved to begin with.  Keep in mind that salvation does not come from “head” knowledge (some atheists know the Bible better than many Christians); salvation comes by grace, through faith, which results in a personal relationship with the Savior.  The same goes for one who takes grace as a license to sin.  The common excuse given is “I am under grace not law.”  This shows a basic misunderstanding of Scripture and a low regard for the price of that grace.  Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  Which ones? All of them!

 

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