Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wearied by Sacrifice

High priest offering a sacrifice of a goat, as...

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My Bible reading schedule has me in Leviticus right now.  If you know the Bible, you know what that means.  I'm reading regulation after regulation regarding the various types of sacrifices for the various types of sins.

I often find it to be rather tiresome going.

Haven't you ever thought about it…how quickly you would have gotten sick of hauling animals to be slaughtered, toting flour cakes and drink offerings and you-name-it to the Temple, every time you sinned?  I never would have gotten anything else done!

As those sorts of thoughts flitted through my head this morning, the Spirit whispered a bit of perspective.

Are you saying you're glad that it's easier to get away with sinning as a Christian?

Oof.  That hit like a punch in the gut.  It's amazing how a still, small Voice, speaking gently, can pack such a wallop.

I had to step back and examine my whole perspective.  And the first thing that came to mind was just exactly how God felt about those who were wearied by sacrifice:

Oh that there were one among you who would shut the doors, that you might not kindle fire on my altar in vain! I have no pleasure in you, says the LORD of hosts, and I will not accept an offering from your hand… You say, 'What a weariness this is,' and you snort at it, says the LORD of hosts…Shall I accept that from your hand? (Excerpted from Mal 1:10-13)

Every other time I've ever read that passage over the years, I've felt sympathy with those who complained about the 'nuisance' of the sacrifices.  But subconsciously I was saying that, if I had lived in those days, I would have wished I could just sin freely and get away with it!  I mean, come on, God!  Get over it!  Why do You have to make such a big deal about it? I might not have had the guts to put it in those words, but that's what I was feeling.  The sacrifices were a total drag.

But that attitude toward the Old Testament sacrifices supports one of the heresies I most despise in modern Christendom…the idea that Jesus' sacrificial death on our behalves accomplished "carefree sinning" for us. 

It's true that Jesus was the Final, Perfect Sacrifice, and that we no longer bring offerings to any Temple for the forgiveness of our sins.  And praise God for that!  But the way we look at that fact reveals a lot about our hearts.

Are we "sin-centered" or "God-centered?"

A sin-centered person in Old Testament times would have resented the sacrifices.  A sin-centered person in the age of Grace is thankful for Christ's sacrifice…but not for the right reasons.  Such a person is thankful because they believe they've gotten a "Get out of jail free" card. 

The sin-centered person in the Old Testament may have brought sacrifices, but God did not receive them from his hand.  They did him no good.  And a sin-centered person in the age of Grace cannot hope to invoke the holy name of Jesus as an excuse to freely wallow in the very slime that Jesus died to save them from.

Think about this…the "blood money" that Judas got for betraying Jesus was so unholy that the Chief Priests wouldn't accept it into the Temple Treasury (Matt 27:6-7), even though they were the ones who had originally paid Judas that money in the first place (Matt 26:14-15).  They recognized that the money was dirty because it had paid for a grievous sin to be committed.

Those who view Jesus' blood as their "ticket to sin" are in essence calling His blood "dirty money" which pays for sin…not for salvation from it, but for the free continuation of it!  They are calling His blood an unholy thing, unfit for use in any sacred context.  Surely it is for such people that Heb 10:29 was written!

A God-centered person in the Old Testament would have loved coming to the Temple with their sacrifices.  Why?  Because they loved the fact that they could be restored to fellowship with their God, the source of their joy (Ps 43:4)!  For them, their own sinfulness was the "nuisance," and the sacrifices were a blessed way to be renewed in their fellowship with the God they loved. 

For the God-centered person of the New Testament, Jesus' sacrifice is a never-ending wonder.  They cannot fully comprehend why God would have given them the forgiveness and cleansing they need to freely return to fellowship with Himself, to righteousness, and to godliness (not to sinning)!

The lover of God, who comes to Him through Christ alone, has nothing to fear from Heb 10:29 when he sins.  Such a person hates that he has broken fellowship, and can rejoice that the precious blood of Christ has bought his forgiveness and cleansing and restoration to fellowship.  He does not profane that blood, or insult the Spirit of Grace.  He sinned, and it was horrible of him, and he does not take it lightly.  But he sees Christ as his Savior from sin, not as his sin-enabler.  And that makes all the difference.

The lover of sin, who comes to Satan's altar with the blood of Christ on his hands as his "escape clause," is the one who needs to tremble at this verse.  Oh adulterer, what is His blood to you, that you should think to pour it out on the filthy shrines of His sworn enemy; that you should raise your chalice of sin along with all the fiends of Hell to toast His grace with mocking lips?  Do you sing "Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound" at your orgies of wicked indulgence?

What is His blood to you?  What is the Holy Sacrifice?  Is it really there just to remove the "nuisance" of Temple sacrifices and make sinning easier for you?  If you had lived under the Law, would you have scorned the way of atonement that God made, or would you have rejoiced that He should have made any way back into His sweet presence at all?

Are you sin-centered, or God-centered?

Which am I?

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? —unless indeed you fail to meet the test! (2 Co 13:5)


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Jaime Kubik said...

Again, very thought provoking! Wonderful lesson about sin.

Karin said...

Thank you for a very important post!!

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