“… and now, I reveal the solution …”

Yesterday’s post drew some comments about the necessity to keep the Old Testament in mind when considering Jesus and His sacrifice.

[from Amy Lee Bell] The beauty of the gospel is the fact that God Himself provided the means of salvation. The Word became flesh and lived a perfect life, according to God’s righteous Law. Then, by taking our sins upon Himself, he imputed His righteousness to us. It’s as though we were the ones that obeyed, and because of that obedience, we will receive eternal life!

[from Glenys Mino, via Facebook] One cannot pick and choose parts of the Word of God. To say you don’t need the OT because we live in the NT, is a lie of the devil. We need the entire Bible,from cover to cover. Psalms 119 talks much about His Word. John 1:1-14, there are many promises in the OT that I am sure they claim them but then say we don’t need the OT. Not so,we need all of God’s Word. Line upon line, precept upon precept.

[from Al Siebring, also via Facebook] I’m always struck by the “Road to Emmaus” story. (Luke 24).*
Would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the conversation described in verse 27: “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he (Christ) interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
The OT is all about Christ! Separating it from Scripture would gut the entire story of redemptive history.

Considering Jesus without considering the Old Testament is a little like getting a mystery novel and ripping out all but the last chapter: you know — the part where everyone is sitting in the drawing-room and the great detective points a finger at the perpetrator and thunders, “J’accuse!”

death in paradise-1You have no idea what crime was committed or how the perp did it and thought he/she was going to get away with it (because you’ve even torn out the Tedious Recap Monologue with Red Herrings). So why read any of it?

And yet, that’s what happens when we choose to ignore the Old Testament. We read that Jesus is our Saviour, but miss the part about what we need to be saved from. People fulminate that YOU NEED JESUS! but we’re not exactly clear as to why.

And when that happens, people can easily just shrug and say, “No I don’t”. They figure that He said some “nice things” and was a “good person”, and some even fall into the trap of saying that He “set Himself up to be a martyr”. Jesus might turn up on posters with other “good people” — Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, St Francis of Assisi, JFK, the Dalai Lama — but if there’s nothing to indicate why He is The Answer — The Way, The Truth and The Life — then, as Al says, the whole point is lost.

The Old Testament reflects our own lives before encountering Jesus. Practically from birth, we’ve fallen away from God and He devotes pretty much all of His time to trying to draw us back to Him. We go through trials and wars and our own personal “Egypt” — the period when we seem light-years away from Him — and the wandering in the wilderness before we reach our own Promised Land.

That Promised Land is a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and that is really What It’s All About, not the things the world tells us to pursue: money, prestige and self-esteem.

It’s worth noting what Glenys says: we have to take in the whole thing. Indeed, if you look at the instructions for eating the Passover lamb, you have to eat it all, and all at once, and with bitter herbs. It’s not pleasant, but then again, neither is the state we were in prior to meeting Jesus, and swallowing the Passover with the bitter herbs is necessary, so we can understand the reality of our need for Jesus.

If we shut our eyes to that reality, we also miss out on the repeated prophecies of hope, that whatever we’re going through now, God has something even better coming down the pike.

Amy Lee puts it so beautifully when she writes that “It’s as though we were the ones that obeyed.” Jesus assumed the disobedience we had fallen into and its consequences, and we get to move forward as if nothing had happened.

But we need to know that something did happen — not so we can wallow in guilt, but so we can remember and rejoice in the price Jesus paid for our freedom.

* Indeed, one of the things I love about the copies of the King James Version that I have is the cross-references in the centre column: at that point in the Gospel, all the prophetic references, the quotations Jesus would have laid on the two friends, are listed there.

Hope in an “old book”

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed: the mountains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it.”

— Amos 9:12

“And it will come to pass in that day that the mountains shall drip with new wine, the hills shall flow with milk, and all the brooks of Judah shall be flooded with water; a fountain shall flow from the house of the Lord and water from the Valley of Acacias … I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted; for the Lord dwells in Zion.”

— Joel 3:18, 21

For thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream. Then you shall feed; on her sides shall you be carried, and be dandled on her knees, as one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.”

— Isaiah 66:12-13

I’ve been reading the Old Testament prophets lately, and two recurring themes keep popping up. One is the punishment for having fallen away from God; the other is the promise that if we come back to Him, He will not only take care of us, but will bring us something far greater than we could imagine.

Those three passages are the tail ends of the books of three prophets, and they make no bones about the fact that the Lord is right ticked-off with us, but they always end on that note of optimism, the hope that there is something greater in store for us, if we’ll just come back to Him.

“For I know the thoughts I think towards you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ says the Lord, “and I will bring you back from your captivity ….”

— Jeremiah 29:11-14

The prophecies — like Jeremiah’s — often relate immediately to historical events and situations, like the Hebrews’ being captured and taken away to Babylon — but they’ve stuck around for all these centuries because they are also intended to relate to our own lives. The “captivity” Jeremiah talks about is both the captivity in Babylon and the captivity we experience by being separated from God. The deliverance the prophets talk about — the glorious times of mountains dripping with wine, hills flowing with milk and being comforted like a child in his or her mother’s arms — are all promises to us, just as much as they were to the people hearing the prophecy in the first place.

Notice, too, that these are prophecies relating to good times in the here-and-now, not some airy-fairy concept about “the next life”. Yes, Jesus talks about the kingdom of Heaven and “the age to come”, but He also refers to blessing and glory in the present time.

That’s why I believe it’s important that we read the Old Testament and look for ways that it applies to today’s world — especially our own lives. (Apparently, I still have it up my nose about the people who dismiss the OT as “a bunch of Jewish stories” or a “3500-year-old book”, as one rap artist called it.) When we realize how the prophecies apply today, we know how to pray for our countries, our cities and our society; we also take a hard look at ourselves and we get a glimpse of how we should pray for our own lives.

But most importantly, we see the hope. We see how the prophecies came true in the immediate and how the predictions of a Saviour also came true, albeit hundreds of years after the last of the prophets died; and we realize that the prophecies of blessing and comfort and peace also apply to our lives, as we turn back to Him.

Lie not against the Truth

A friend of mine recently told me about a healing service, in which a goiter, which had disfigured a woman’s neck for years, suddenly fell off. The miracle wasn’t a stereotypical “sha-ZAM!” where one touch from another person caused the goiter to disappear, but was the result of the woman stating, over and over again, for several days, “by His stripes I am healed.”

[Jesus] Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by Whose stripes you were healed.

— 1 Peter 2:24

You were healed. Not “you will be healed,” but “you were healed.” The healing is already a done deal when we reach out to Jesus. The question is, what happened with that woman in the time leading up to the goiter’s falling off? Why didn’t it drop off immediately?

Because faith requires a catalyst in order to work, and that catalyst is patience. In the emotional heat of the moment — and healing services, being generally charismatic, can get pretty doggone emotional — someone may cry out, “I believe!”, and if the healing doesn’t manifest right away, drop the faith as quickly as they seized it. So the patience involved in speaking aloud that your healing is accomplished, even in the face of the physical evidence, is what strengthens your faith and focuses your mind and heart on God and His glory. Your faith carries on, long after the initial emotion has passed.

If we allow ourselves to say, “I will be healed” or “Jesus Christ will heal me” or even “I’ve called out to Jesus for healing and He will do it”, then we’re saying that the healing hasn’t happened yet, which completely goes against the truth: that by His stripes — the wounds He received while being scourged prior to being crucified — we have been healed. Besides, if we imply that we haven’t been healed yet, when exactly is “yet” going to arrive?

So why do we see physical manifestations of healing and other such miracles? We’ve heard — and in some cases, have seen — people throw away their crutches or run around the room they had limped into moments before or report that their asthma has cleared up. We’ve heard about the Azusa Street Revival and the Daily Colonist in Victoria reported on miracle healings during Charles S. Price’s crusades in the 1920s. Why them, and not others?

I believe it’s for the benefit of others, to see the power of the Holy Spirit at work, to “confirm with accompanying signs” (Mark 16:20) that the Lord is present, to get even the worst skeptic in the crowd to take a good, hard look what they believe.

Remember, healing isn’t just about erasing outward signs of sickness. That sentence of Peter’s talks about being healed of sin, and while that’s inextricably tied to sickness (Jesus told the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven” and the paralytic got up and walked), that sentence tells me that healing involves something more. There are root causes that need to be addressed, and by turning to Jesus for healing, He goes after those root causes. When that happens, we often get healed of things we didn’t even know needed to be healed.

What we mustn’t do, is define healing by our own rather limited vision. We can’t tie God’s hands by saying we’re not healed because we can’t see the outward signs; because if we do that, guess what? We won’t be healed.

Choose to be chosen

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people o God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

— 1 Peter 2:9-10

In his autobiography, Reggie Jackson gives Dick Williams credit for the way he assembled the Oakland A’s in the early 70s.

reggie jackson

He picked up players that other teams didn’t want. So-and-so didn’t make it someplace else? “I’ll take him,” Williams would say, according to Reggie. And that approach created a powerhouse that won three straight championships (1972-74), which only two other teams have done since 1949.

I think about that when I consider how Jesus “drafted” His apostles. They were people who were, for one reason or another, looked down-upon by religious leaders: fishermen, a Canaanite, a tax collector, a suspected thief, as well as at least two young men, born to a well-to-do family (John and James). Add to that the others who joined the camp, like a Pharisee and known persecutor of Jesus’ followers, a purveyor of fine clothing, tentmakers, a wealthy landowner, a “closet Christian” who sat on the Council and an Ethiopian eunuch and you get the dictionary definition of a motley crew.

So basically, anyone who stepped to the plate, Jesus said, in effect, “I’ll take him (or her).”

But how does this square with Jesus’ remark, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)?

That’s one of the glorious paradoxes in the Word of God. We are all called, but unlike kids choosing sides for a pickup basketball game (a sore point with me, even after all these years), I believe God has one main criterion for choosing people: did they say “yes”?

See, God keeps calling us. The signs of His presence are everywhere, and He finds ways to let each of us know that He loves us and wants us with Him, whether it’s an unexplainable good turn in our lives, or the words of others, telling us of His glory, grace and mercy — or miracles in their lives. He gave us His Word, so we could know for ourselves what He wants of us. In one way or another, as Peter puts it, He calls us out of our darkness. Then, He sits back and lets us make the decision.

“See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you …. I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live ….”

— Deuteronomy 30:15-16, 19

So all we need to do is say, “Yes!”, and He chooses us.

If you have chosen, then you are chosen. And this is what’s really important. If you have said “Yes”, that’s all it takes. Don’t let anyone else try to make you “qualify” or “measure up”. You’re on the Team — a true Powerhouse that’s gone undefeated and un-tied since the beginning of time.

And God said, “I’ll take her” — “I’ll take him”.

And God said, “Hang in there!”

And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake But he who endures to the end will be saved.”

— Matthew 10:22

Some years ago, Alice Cooper talked about how “hard” it is to be a Christian, compared to, say, drinking beer and trashing your hotel room. But how can something be “hard”, when Jesus Christ Himself said “My yoke is easy and My burden is light”?

For the same reason that Jesus also stated: the “hard” part is that the world — the devil — will throw everything but the kitchen sink at you to keep you from following the true path.

Remember the story of “Wrong-Way” Riegels? So long as he was running for his own end zone, the opponents did nothing to stop him. As soon as he realized what he was doing and got turned around, they buried him. The same thing with you: as you keep drawing near to God, the devil will block, tackle, clip, and stick his thumb in your eye to try to keep you from getting there.

Or, to put it in natural-world terms, people will:

  • question your intelligence
  • question your ability to “have fun”
  • claim you’re using a crutch
  • accuse you of hating them
  • accuse you of being “holier than thou”
  • apply double-standards for acceptance
  • threaten legislation that limits your freedom of speech
  • introduce    ”                ”        ”        ”             ”          ”      “
  • pass              ”                ”       ”         ”             ”          ”      “
  • cut your head off

But Jesus says it comes with the territory. His half-brother, James, says we should “count it all joy”. Paul says he “glories” in it. Peter writes,

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ ….

— 1 Peter 1:6-7

And that’s the “hard” part: we don’t want people to speak ill of us; in fact, how many times have we seen in popular culture the image of the evil miser — a Grinch, or Old Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life” — who not only doesn’t care what people think of him or her but even revels in it? What kind of glory is that?

The “glory” comes from hanging in, from living the way Jesus calls us to. We “endure” the attacks not by fighting back or getting into bitter arguments, trying to convince people that they should be like us, but by loving people unconditionally, reaching out to others regardless of what their particular faith is or how they feel about ours — or us, for that matter. Witness Christ to them when we are led to, and if they reject us, move on. (Remember: you never know what seeds you’ll sow.)

And somewhere, down in Hell, the enemy is grinding his teeth because he can’t knock us off-stride.

And oh, by the way, there are followers of Jesus in other parts of the world who are enduring far worse than we are in the friendly confines of the First World: who are being jailed, hunted down, arrested during covert prayer meetings, and tortured and executed. That’s persecution, and it’s our responsibility to pray earnestly and fervently for them (“the effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous [person] avails much.” — James 5:16) and not worry about what we’re going through.

See, here’s the wonderful thing about the Bible. It is the Word of God, and that Word tells us that whatever we go through leads directly to something a whole lot more important, more glorious, in the “age to come” and in the present time (Luke 18:30). Isn’t that more to be treasured than whether somebody “likes” us or agrees with our point of view? We just have to buckle up, ensure our tray tables are stowed and our seat-backs in the full upright position and ride it out, baby!

Why ask?

Yesterday, we talked about the Prodigal Son’s brother, who believed that his father should have given him a young goat so he and his friends could have a feast; he believed that he deserved this because he was such a hard worker and an obedient son.

But we also noted that the “good son” didn’t bother to ask for the goat. And the son’s dad tells him, “All I have is yours.” So if Jesus’ parables give us an idea of God’s heart (thank you, Pastor Josh at Westshore Alliance!), one of the take-aways is that whatever God has for us is ours for the asking.

But we have to ask.

Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink>’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

— Matthew 6:31-32

If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? … If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!

— Luke 11:11 & 13

So if God knows what we need? Why bother to ask?

Because, like the older brother, if we don’t ask and expect to receive, then we believe we deserve it — like we’ve done something that makes us worthy and that we believe God should do something for us.

Asking God for it puts us in an inferior position. We make ourselves humble and acknowledge that there’s nothing we can do to merit His giving us anything. It also indicates that we know Him well enough to realize that what He has is ours for the asking.

It’s worth noting, too, that God gave humans dominion over the earth, and if He were to step in and fix things — no matter what they were — He would violate His own principle and make Himself to be a liar. He’s there to help when we call Him in, but we have to make the first move. It’s why Jesus tells us to include “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” in our prayers: believe it or not, we have to give God the go-ahead to work His will.

James writes,

You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. you fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.

You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.

— James 4:2-3

When we try to get what we want through our own strength — which he boils down to murdering, coveting, fighting and making war — we don’t get it. Or, to put it another way, what we do get is a cheap imitation of the glory and greatness God has for us. We think that what we want is what we need, and we don’t trust God to provide us with those needs. So if we do get what we think we’re supposed to have, it blows up in our face, because it’s the product of lust.

I believe that if, in our prayers, we give God carte blanche to provide us with what we need and give us the wisdom to know why He’s provided it, we will see our lives more in tune with what He’s determined for us and ultimately, truly fulfilled.

And that includes, from time to time, a young goat so we can party it up for His glory.

Just ask!

You’re probably familiar with the parable of the Prodigal Son. The young man decides to strike out on his own and asks (demands?) that his father give him his share of the inheritance while he’s still alive. His father complies; the kid goes off and blows it on booze and women. Then he goes broke, a famine hits, and he decides to go home and ask his father to hire him as a servant.

prodigal son brother

But rather than do that, the father is over-the-moon delighted his son has come back and throws a huge party to celebrate; at which point, the older brother, who’s been the obedient son all these years, goes into a pout.

“Lo,” [the older brother says], “these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends.”

— Luke 15:29

Hold that thought.

Recently, I was chatting with a pastor who set up a breakfast program at a local high school — a public high school, in fact. That’s significant, because I had always assumed that a public entity would be loath to be seen to be involved with a religious organization. You know: we might try to tell them that there is hope in Christ, or that Jesus is The Way — not one of many, or that the theory of evolution is not supported by fossil evidence.

Certainly, at Gospel Mission we didn’t go after government funding for anything, because we were concerned we’d be required to keep quiet about “Jesus stuff”.

So I asked the pastor how he got the school district onside. “I asked,” he said.

Sure, he went on, they agreed not to push a religious message during the breakfasts, but they could casually mention that they have a youth group that meets Monday evenings at a nearby church, but they got the goahead with full blessing from the district.

Because they asked.

Which brings us back to the Prodigal Son’s Brother. In his remark to his father, he doesn’t say he actually asked for a young goat so he and his mates could have a feast. He just says that his dad never gave him one. And sure enough, his dad replies, “All that I have is yours.” (Luke 15:31)

All he had to do was ask.

Heaven knows, the Bible records stranger things being asked-for. In Exodus, the Hebrews are told to go to their Egyptian neighbors and ask for their gold and silver. They do that, and Scripture tells us that they “pillaged” the Egyptians; they pillaged by asking.

When we built The Lord’s Rain in Vancouver, we had no money in the bank for the project, so that meant we had to ask at every turn. We needed signs from God, to confirm that this was His vision and not a wild-goose chase laid on by the enemy? We asked. We needed money? We asked. We needed supplies? We asked. We needed publicity so people knew the project was happening (or, as was the case in 2013, that it was in danger of closing down)? We asked.

Sometimes, we got turned down, but the people who said “yes” to us were exactly the ones who were supposed to be involved with exactly the things we needed. We learned that God provided things in His time, but always on time — even if, to us, it felt like “the eleventh hour, fifty-ninth minute”.

Think on this: all that God has is ours, and we can’t expect Him to drop it in our lap. Jesus says “your heavenly Father knows what you need before you ask,” but we still need to ask.

The Communion — anyone can play

And [Jesus] took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you: do this in remembrance of Me.

Likewise, He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”

— Luke 22:19-20

When I went to New York City about ten years ago, I was led into a church near the place where I was staying. I was told they were having a Friday evening healing service, so I went over to have a look.

It was a black congregation, so blending in was not going to be an option. So I sat quietly, and prayed in agreement with the Pastor as he ministered to the people. Presently, one of the elders — who I later learned was called Mother Jackson — came over to me.

“Will you take Communion with us, son?”

It was a moment of “acceptance”, and one of the warmest Holy Ghost sensations I’ve felt before or since.

Many years ago, a friend of mine got completely bent out of shape when I told her I’d taken Communion in a church of her denomination. She was shocked: “You can’t do that unless you’re a member of the church!” I’m not mentioning the denomination because I found out recently that it’s not the only denomination that restricts Communion to its members.

I’m not going to attribute “right” or “wrong” to that policy, or to the “open door” policy other denominations hold, like Rivers of Living Water in Brooklyn. But let me explain why I prefer the open door.

It comes down to a question of what does Communion mean? Literally, it means being together as one: but is it being together with other like-minded people, or being together with Jesus, in a group setting? I believe it’s the latter: He said, “Do this [share in the bread and wine as symbolic representations of My broken body and shed blood] to remember Me.”

We do it as a group because spreading the Gospel is a shared burden, but if we limit Communion to people of the same denomination, are we not putting back together the veil that was torn apart when Jesus was crucified? Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but I believe that restricting Communion like that makes the act more an act of togetherness with a church or denomination than with Jesus Himself.

The churches I’ve gone to generally make Communion optional: they invite everyone to partake, but it’s up to the individual’s choice. I’ve only seen a couple of people take a pass over the years, and I wonder if that’s because they feel (a) they need to be a part of that church or denomination to do it, or (b) they align with a different denomination and they feel they’d be violating its tenets if they took Communion in a different church.

Like anything else in the faith walk, Communion is an intensely personal thing, but it’s also something where we take this personal position and do it alongside others. When we’re of “one accord”, there’s nothing we can’t do and Jesus promises that He’s there with us. I believe that “one accord” is belief and fellowship with Jesus Christ. That’s why I don’t think anyone should be barred from taking Communion. It comes back to the principle: “Do this in remembrance of Me,” and if someone is moved to consider what Jesus taught, the way He lived, or especially what He did for us at Calvary, pass the bread and wine and let them join the party!

Losing your salvation?

There are plenty of “problematic” passages in Scripture, but this is one that, over the years, seems particularly difficult to people I’ve talked to.

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

— Hebrews 6:4-6

I’ve heard that interpreted in diametrically opposite ways: one is, “one slip and you lose your Salvation”; the other is, “once saved – always saved”. For a newly-saved, or recently baptized Christian, it can lead to paranoia that if they make another mistake, they’ll wind up in hell.

Since paranoia is rooted in confusion and God is not the author of confusion, I doubt that’s what that passage means.

The way I read it is, if you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior, received Christ and joined with the Holy Spirit, and you still back-slide, don’t waste time going back to Square One — that is, the Cross. Why do I believe that? Because of what comes before and after that “problematic” passage.

Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection [maturity], not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits.

For it is impossible … [etc.]

… For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

— Hebrews 6:1-3; 7-8

In other words, if you slip up and commit a sin (and that can be either through doing what you’re not supposed to do or not doing what you are supposed to), don’t think you have to go back and repent all over again. Jesus has already been nailed to the Cross for your sake, and if you keep in mind the image of the sacrifice (as we talked about yesterday), do we really want to put Him through that again? Once is enough (Hebrews 9:28).

But what it does mean is, when you commit the sin of being human, the Holy Spirit has given you the strength to get back on track at the point where you fell off, and continue with the work you’ve been called to do. (Note that I’m talking about inadvertent sin. Deliberately disobeying the Lord is a completely different matter.)

In other words, get over it and get on with it.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve talked about it before: Peter is the prime example. Jesus declared, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah” (Matthew 16:17), for declaring that Jesus is “the Christ – the Son of the Living God”, telling Peter that the Holy Spirit had revealed that to him.

But only a few days later, Peter denied Jesus three times in one night.

But while Judas Iscariot committed suicide for betraying Jesus, Peter moved in the power of the Holy Spirit and pressed on, preaching, teaching, healing and doing the things the writer of Hebrews says are indicative of the mature Believer.

And that’s what we need to do. If we make a mistake and nail Jesus back to the Cross by repenting all over again, others around us see our faith as nothing more than a pacifier to suck on when we feel bad about ourselves, and not as the superhuman power that it really is. That, more than anything else, puts Christ to an “open shame”. “So much for his Jesus,” they’ll say, “he’s still the same old rat-fink, but now he thinks he’s in tune with God.”

But if we shake off what we’ve done, summon up the Holy Ghost power in us to overcome the shame and prevent it happening again, and get on with our own assignment of healing and baptizing, we will show others what Jesus is really all about.

The Holy Spirit has been likened to rain, and like the earth, we drink in that rain and can bear either fruit “useful for those by whom it is cultivated” or thorns and briers.

The thorns and briers wind up being rejected by God, cursed and tossed into the fire. When we bring forth fruit, though, we receive blessing from God.

Can a momentary lapse on our part possibly be any more powerful than the blood of Jesus and the Holy Spirit? The devil wants us to think so and keep running around in a vicious circle of shame, looking inward and down, terrified of “losing our salvation”. But if we look outward toward others and up toward God, we’ll show just how strong our salvation is.

An image to keep in mind

“Ugh! There’s so much blood in the Bible!”

Those words came from a woman some years ago, when I tried to explain to her that “Passover” did not refer to the Hebrews “passing over” the Red Sea. The conversation didn’t go much further than her reaction. But the thing is, she was absolutely right: there is a lot of blood in the Bible.

The other day, I went into one of those states where, rather than praying or reading my Bible, I went quiet and tried to clear my mind of all outside distractions. That’s not easy, when you have the attention span of a flea on a griddle, and it takes concentration.

So I concentrated on Jesus and His sacrifice, and suddenly I was reminded that His sacrifice was the extension of the blood sacrifices mandated in the Old Testament: an unblemished male, like a lamb; an innocent lamb that’s done nothing wrong, about to die because someone else had.

Now, the Book of Leviticus has instructions on how the sacrifice is to be performed.

If [the] offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let [the person making the offering] offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord. Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.

— Leviticus 1:3-4

I heard somewhere that the person making the offering was also supposed to look into the eyes of the animal, but I can’t find the exact reference. No matter: just laying your hand on its head makes a connection between you and the animal. This animal has been obedient to come to your hand, has not put up a fight, and in a moment, you’re about to slit its throat.

For an instant, I imagined the animal in question was my dog. I shuddered. I certainly couldn’t do it to her: how could I do it to an animal?*

But now, imagine that that’s a human being. Jesus Christ. He is now face to face with me and He is willing to die and have every drop of blood drained from His body to atone for my sins.

In fact, because He’s a human being and not an animal, His sacrifice was particularly brutal. He was humiliated and tortured, and you wouldn’t do that to a beast that was about to be slaughtered.

And Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t just to atone for one thing. It’s the sacrifice to end all sacrifices (Hebrews 9:28), which wipes out any trace of accusation against us (Colossians 2:14). Nonetheless, the image of that lamb is something we need to hold onto, because even after we’ve received Christ and accepted Jesus as our Savior, temptation can bring us to the point of back-sliding. That’s when we need to remind ourselves of what He went through for our sakes.

Have you ever looked at the cross,

with a Man hanging in pain

and the look of love in His eyes?

Then I say … you’ve seen Jesus my Lord.

— “Have You Seen Jesus My Lord?” (John Fischer**, 1970)***

And why blood? Because blood “is the life of all flesh. Its blood sustains its life.” (Leviticus 17:14). So when we talk about Jesus’ blood “covering our sins”, it is, in fact, Jesus’ life that’s covering our sins.

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

— Romans 6:23

Truly, to God, your life matters.

*Oddly enough, I’d have no problem if it were a matter of food. But sacrificing an animal for my wrongdoing is a different matter altogether.

** Happy Birthday, John (yesterday)! Please check out John’s daily offerings here.

*** ©1970, Songs and Creations, Inc.