Hebrews 9, Chapter 13.
Beginning a new year and a new decade fills us with bright and happy hope. We take a long-eyed view of the past year and the past decade. We decide to change. We will change! We can do it!
And so, we make resolutions. We readjust our courses. We aim straight. We try with all our might to do the things we didn’t do the previous year.
Typically, we fail, unless we come at this discipline with our minds fixed on grace, relying on the hope we have in Christ, rather than in ourselves as the agent of change. Why is this the case?
When we strive in our own might to lose weight, change habits, work out daily, quit yelling at our kids, or become a better spouse, we show the general human propensity to prefer law over grace. We like rules, and we like to complete them through our own grit and determination.
We want to conquer. We want to win. We want the credit.
However, research shows that most resolutions fail within twenty-one days. We give up about three weeks in. Why? Because we’re human. Our sense of failure and hopelessness sabotages our efforts. New routines take around seventy days to become habits, and rarely does our grit last that long. Rules don’t help when there is no encouragement along the way, no grace to begin over again as often as necessary, and no help or support from others.
God knew this, of course, so he planned all along to provide for salvation, growth, and change, all accomplished by grace rather than law, all aided by the Helper, his own Holy Spirit.
In ancient times, all of the facts of human failure would have been as clear as a daily stroll through the marketplace, no matter what culture we occupied, whether Jewish, Greco-Roman, Gallic, Gaelic, Scythian, or any other outlying tribal area. A comprehension of human brokenness and need for atonement was widespread. Sacrifices were offered.
The smoke of offerings burned because of sins/errors/mistakes would have filled the air, the odor of burnt fat and the smell of animal offal would have been normal aromas for shopping and taking care of religious duties in the city or town. Dust and dung on feet and clothes, animals being led through the packed streets of the crowded marketplace, people sacrificing what they hoped would atone for their sins or appease their gods.
Even though our faith is Judeo-Christian and is rooted in the Old Testament with requirements for this atoning work, still this is entirely foreign to us. And yet, we daily try to atone for our own wrongs, to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. We try to bullet point our way to spiritual maturity in our walk of faith, our daily conduct, our relationships, our habits, and our health goals. We buy workout gear and gym memberships, we make promises to loved ones, and then, sadly but typically, we fail to achieve what we set out to do. And then, we emotionally castigate ourselves for our failures.
I write today to remind us that not only is this a new year with hope for real change, but we are the partakers of a new covenant with a far better hope and guarantee.I write today to remind us that not only is this a new year with hope for real change, but we are the partakers of a new covenant with a far better hope and guarantee. #newyear #newdecade Click To Tweet
The time when gifts and sacrifices were offered to our God is over. Sacrifices couldn’t perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but only dealt with food and drink and washing, all regulations that impacted the outer body. These were imposed only until the time of reformation, the new order, the time when the new covenant made by Christ replaced the old covenant of the law (See Hebrews 9:9b-10). In other words, the time of needing to offer sacrifices is long past.
“But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come. . . he entered once for all into the holy places (the Most Holy Place, the throne of God), not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11a, 12 ESV).
This was why Christ came, to pay for it all, to prevent us from having to pay for our sins ourselves, to provide grace to help us overcome ourselves and all our abhorrent practices, to provide mercy to help us in our time of need, and to provide our ultimate salvation. Not only did he provide an everyday help and continual forgiveness as we trudge through this life, but also an eternal salvation, where we never have to pay for our habitual sins.
“Jesus’ sacrificial death is the basis for eternal redemption, the paid release from the oppression of sin” (ESV Study Bible). The blood of Christ has the power to purify our consciences from our dead works that never accomplish all we hope and pray they will and also to empower us to habitually serve the living God with consistent godly living.The blood of Christ has the power to purify our consciences from works that never accomplish all we hope and pray they will and to empower us to serve God with consistent godly living. Click To Tweet
All of his spilled blood was necessary. In our clean and sanitized culture, we don’t understand that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22b ESV).
However, Christ accomplished this at a time in human history when most everyone intuitively and instinctually knew it. They knew in their heart of hearts that their many sins required atonement, and when we’re brutally honest with ourselves, we know this, too. We have hurt others. We have hurt ourselves. We have failed to even acknowledge or thank our Creator.Sins required atonement. We know this. We've hurt others. We've hurt ourselves. We've failed to even acknowledge or thank our Creator. Christ obtained atonement for us on the cross. Click To Tweet
When Christ accomplished this atonement for us on the cross, he became “the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death had occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed” (Hebrews 9:15a ESV).
All ancient covenants required blood, sealed with the blood of bulls, goats, and sheep in the ancient era of the Old Testament. But now, this most important covenant of all is sealed with the blood of Christ. It is finished. This is the new covenant. The old covenant has passed away. This was always the plan of the Creator of the universe and of each one of us formed by God’s design in our mothers’ wombs.
We know in our guts that blood is required when particularly heinous crimes are committed, such as the shooting of innocent African-American church members gathered in prayer, killed by a young man filled with racial hatred. We know it when a mass murderer guns down hundreds of people from a hotel window and then takes his own life.
And so, at the exact time God had chosen in human history, Christ took on all our sins, even these heinous crimes. He shed his blood, which has the power to cover any and all human sins, past, present, and future, no matter how reprehensible.
All we need to do is put our entire trust in Christ, repent of our sins — turning from our sins and toward him — and enter into a new relationship with him. This is how we are born again.All we need to do is put our entire trust in Christ, repent of our sins — turning from our sins and toward him — and enter a new relationship with him. This is how we are born again. #Faith Click To Tweet
Those who are called, who feel the urging in our hearts to turn to God, who feel the conviction of sin, who recognize the need for not only forgiveness but also for the sustaining presence of God in our lives, all these will turn to him for forgiveness and choose to turn away from our previous lifestyle to embrace a life of faith and obedience to God. Turning from sin and toward habitual growth with God’s help is called “repentance” and is how we are “born again,” made new to live our lives for God.
This is what we need. This is how we begin the gradual change that comes from God’s presence in our lives. Jesus made our redemption possible, and he now intercedes for us in heaven in the very presence of God (Hebrews 9:24), constantly advocating for us before the Father.
Christ only had to offer himself once. His one-time offering was sufficient.
“He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once and after that comes judgment, so Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:26b-28 ESV).
We only have this one life. We only have the opportunity to turn to Christ in this lifetime. Have we? Do we recognize our need for him? Are you eagerly awaiting his return? Have you turned to him in faith and repentance? If not, if you feel him calling you near, turn to him now.We only have this one life. We only have the opportunity to turn to Christ in this lifetime. Have you turned to him in faith and repentance? If not, if you feel him calling you, turn to him now. Click To Tweet
The next Hebrews series post can be found right here.