Posts tagged ‘Forgiveness’

Levi Meets His Maker

He was a traitor to his people, his family, and his own integrity. He had been kicked out of his family, his faith, and his nation. No one wanted anything to do with him, unless it meant casting further scorn on him or even killing him. He had nothing left but a nagging conscience, which he tried to drown out in the pursuit of wealth at the expense of those who had cast him out.

Things had not always been this way. He was from a priestly family, and had been given the name of his tribe — Levi. But somehow, somewhere, the temple worship had lost its luster for Levi. Perhaps it was the hypocrisy of the Pharisees as the paraded around like pious peacocks wanting to be admired for their meticulous obedience to the traditions of the fathers. Then again, maybe it was the greed of the money changers, who were stealing from the people like the hated tax collectors, but whitewashed it as holy commerce. So Levi left it all and went to the dark side. He began collecting taxes for the emperor, with extra added on for his personal “needs” as he saw fit.

His father Alphaeus (Clopas in Hebrew) was heartbroken, as was his mother Mary. His brother James had severed ties with Levi long ago and would not even speak to him or acknowledge that he was even alive. This family, once admired for their priestly piety and decorum, was coming apart at the seams.

But then He came along. A prophet from Nazareth of all places. His name was Jesus, and He taught in a way none of them had heard before. Instead of rambling quotes from rabbis of the past, He taught with authority. What especially appealed to Levi was the man, Jesus, who was not afraid to say out loud some of what he had been thinking all along about the Pharisees and the money changers. From what he could tell, his mother was the first to become a disciple, followed soon after by his brother James and father Alphaeus. It was all well and good for them, but what Levi had done was so heinous as to be irreversible. There was no path back into the fold once you sold your soul to Rome.

“Good for them!” he thought. At least they had found the answers he had been looking for but only discovered too late for redemption. Even if, somehow, this Jesus would let him follow at a distance, his father and brother would never publicly accept him back into the family. And he was wrong. Jesus was teaching about forgiveness and restoring relationships with his Father in heaven. Perhaps there was a chance, but did Levi dare to get his hopes up? No, it was best to resign himself to making the most of life as an outcast.

And then one day, as if out of nowhere, Levi was blindsided. Before he had time to consider the “what ifs” Jesus of Nazareth walked by his tax station. Would he be today’s object lesson, or the brunt of righteous indignation? Levi braced himself. What he heard instead were the sweetest words ever to enter his ears and pierce his soul. As their eyes met, Jesus simply said, “Follow me.” And that’s exactly what he did. Levi had messed up enough things in life, and he was not going to miss this opportunity. For instead of scorn and condemnation, he heard words of forgiveness and redemption from his Creator.

Levi (or Matthew) was now reunited with his family, including the brother who once counted him as dead. Soon they would both be apostles. They were not brought together as priest and traitor, but as brothers in Christ, and the old had passed away forever. I wonder sometimes if Levi and Jesus ever discussed what it was like to have a mother named Mary and a brother named James? This family, once so broken and shattered, had been reconciled around their love for Jesus Christ. Love does that; it restores. Levi could be “brother” to James, and the other disciples (even Simon the Zealot).

Have you wandered so far that you think there is no way home to God? If that worries you, then no, you can still come home. But do not delay to do so, for if you refuse His offer of restoration and reconciliation to God, the urge will wane and you will lose the desire and eventually the ability to repent. Come back now. Jesus is still looking at each one of us and saying “Follow Me” on a daily basis. Make today “that day” for you.

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It Will Never Lose Its Power

I have had some experience with pharmaceutical sales, and one of the questions asked by doctors about a drug is whether or not it loses efficacy over time. In other words, does the medication work well at first, but over time loses its effect on the condition that is being treated? What I want to talk about is something that definitely does not lose efficacy over time. In fact, it is still the most powerful cure in the universe. It is the blood of Jesus!

The apostle Peter talks about the blood this way:

knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. (I Peter 1:18, 19 NKJV)

The blood is something precious. Its value is far above that of silver or gold. This blood is the cure for the most deadly disease in existence. It is used to bring spiritually dead people back to life! You may wonder if we baptize dead people. I would say that, yes, we do. Every one of them starts of spiritually dead. They are then made alive by the blood of Christ!

For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:13, 14)

Our sin had separated us from a holy God. We were without hope of curing ourselves, and were completely alienated from God. But the blood of Christ changed all of that!

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13 NKJV)

Even though we were enemies of God, Christ died for us in order to demonstrate His love for us. We have gone from being enemies of God to having peace with God! (Colossians 1:20)

There was a song written by Andrae Crouch many years ago ago the blood of Jesus, that said that the blood would never lose its power. Even though it was shed for us nearly 2000 years ago, it is just as potent as ever. It will save the worst sinner today the same way it would save one back then. The words of the chorus say, “it reaches to the highest mountain“. Even when we are on the mountaintop and have intimate communion with God, we still are only there because of the blood that was shed for us back at Calvary. Then it continues with “and it flows to the lowest valley“. No matter how far we have wandered in sin; no matter how far into the depths of wickedness our life has plunged, the blood of Jesus will still reach us right where we are if we will only appropriate it.

The words of John at the beginning of the Revelation some it up best:

and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5, 6 NKJV)

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Of Sin and Diaper Disposal

I heard an illustration the other day, and was so impressed by it that I thought I would put it here and maybe expand on it a bit. Perhaps it was because the illustration was from something that was so familiar. In fact, it was more familiar than I wanted it to be. So thanks, Landon, for the powerful (in many ways) word picture.

Have you ever had one of those diaper machines? I remember having one called a Diaper Genie, and it was a very useful little invention. When a diaper became “soiled” I would lift up the lid, place the offensive object inside, twist, and close it again. The diaper was surrounded by a plastic bag, and was safely inside. Eventually, though, I would be accosted by an ever increasing odor when I would open the lid. Thankfully, I could take it outside and empty what looked like a chain of sausage, into the trash to be left at the curb. Early in the morning the garbage truck would come by and take it away forever, and it would be buried.

What that illustrates very powerfully is the difference between our sins under the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant. Under the former system of sacrifices of animals, our sins were covered over, kind of like a diaper inside a diaper pail. Every year the sins of the people were covered.

Under the New Covenant, it is different. We now have the remission of sins. Just like when we take the sausage chain of corruption to the curb, we bring our sin to Jesus and forsake them. We leave them there and don’t come back to them, just like we would never think of reusing a diaper pail roll. Jesus has promised to take them away and remember them no more. He takes them away instead of covering them up. He is able to do this because He has entered into the heavenly temple and offered His own blood once and for all and sat down at the Father’s right hand.

And every priest stands day after day serving and offering the same sacrifices again and again – sacrifices that can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right hand of God, where he is now waiting until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet . For by one offering he has perfected for all time those who are made holy. (Hebrews 10:11-14 NET)

So remember, those of you with diaper genie machines, our sins are no longer covered and wrapped up, have have been taken away by Jesus. And then hurry out and empty that thing!

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The Blood Cries Out

Murder is a terrible thing. That is especially true when it involves family members. When a murder happens, there is instinctively a desire for justice and punishment. There is a felt need for justice to be done and for retribution to be handed out. Such was the case when e first murder occurred in Genesis as Cain killed his brother Abel.

Now Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. “So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. (Genesis 4:8-11 NKJV)

Because of his crime, the blood of Abel cried out from the ground and brought down upon Cain a curse for his crime.

There is another time in Scripture that there is blood that cries out. During what is commonly called the passion of Christ, his blood was also shed. During the beatings, the scourging, and the crucifixion, Jesus shed blood. Like Abel, it was blood that was being shed by an innocent man, and was in connection with the offering of a sacrifice. The Hebrew writer says this about that blood:

to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. (Hebrews 12:24 NKJV)

Abel’s blood, when it was shed, cried out to God for judgment, justice, and condemnation. The blood of Jesus also cries out, but speaks of better things. The blood of Jesus cried out “atonement, grace, forgiveness, and salvation!” The blood of Abel was like the sacrifices of the Law which only had the power to condemn. But the blood of Jesus is the blood of the New Covenant that brings forgiveness instead of guilt, grace instead of law, and salvation instead of condemnation!

In context, the Hebrew writer was making reference to an event that happened on Mount Sinai when Moses came down the mountain and found that the people were reveling in their sinful passions. On that day at Mount Sinai 3,000 people were killed as God judged them for their sins.
So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moses. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day. (Exodus 32:28 NKJV)
Later, when the church was born at the feast of Pentecost, this time on Jerusalem (Mount Zion), the Holy Spirit descended, the Gospel was preached, and 3,000 people were saved. That is the difference now that the blood of Christ has been shed. Instead of instant judgment by the Law, those who received the Word and were baptized that day were forgiven and given eternal life! All of this was and is made possible by the blood of Christ that “speaks better things” for those who believe and obey the Gospel!

So come by the blood. Come to Christ and appropriate for yourself that cleansing power and have the blood cry out “forgiven, justified, and set free” over you today! Have peace with God because of the blood that was shed for your salvation.

and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. (Colossians 1:20 NKJV)

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Our Kippur

Tonight at sunset, members of the Jewish community will celebrate the festival of Yom Kippur, also known as the Day (yom) of Atonement (kippur). This feast was ordained by God in Leviticus as the day in which the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood of a lamb on the top of the Ark of the Covenant. This was the space between the golden cherubim and was called “the mercy seat.” (Leviticus 13 & 26)

While that is very interesting, what does it symbolize for us today? Glad you asked!

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. (Hebrews 9:11-15 NASB)

In Christ, we now do not need to wait for a yearly day of atonement in order to be forgiven. Nor do we have a high priest who is continually offering he sacrifice of His blood to atone for our sins.

For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. Otherwise, He would have needed to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now once at the consummation of the ages He has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment, so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. (Hebrews 9:24-28 NASB)

This is a one time sacrifice that has been offered once-for-all and needs never to be repeated. As a sacrifice of infinite value, it cannot be added to.

By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, SAT DOWN AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD, waiting from that time onward UNTIL HIS ENEMIES BE MADE A FOOTSTOOL FOR HIS FEET. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:10-14 NASB)

That is why He can continually cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:9) and why we can enter into His presence boldly.

With that in mind, every day is part of the one eternal Day of Atonement for Christians. So we should rejoice in the salvation that has been purchased with the blood of the Lamb of God. Christ has fulfilled the feast, and as our high priest has completed the atonement once for all!

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Forgiveness Requires Confession

People come from many different backgrounds. For many, the spiritual environment in which they were raised has a tremendous effect on their view of doctrinal tenets, religious practices, and definitions of religious terms. Such is the case with the word translated as “confession” in the New Testament. So when I say that confession is a necessary precondition for forgiveness I need to clarify some biblical concepts and terminology.

The Apostle John, in the first chapter of his general epistle says this:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NASB)

So is John saying here that we must go before a priest and orally confess our sins in order to receive absolution? No, and here is why. Rather than meaning admitting what we have done, the Greek word used in 1 John 1:9 is “homologeo” which means “to say the same as”. So what is required is that we say the same thing about our sin that God says about it.

Rather than being a “get it of jail free” card, this confession entails changing our minds about our sin, so repentance is included in it since the word translated repent means to change your mind. This change must be deep enough that we begin saying the same thing about our sins that the Bible says. There is nothing biblical about just admitting what we have done, or even asking God to forgive us of our sins if we have not forsaken them. It’s not about saying the magic words. We need to not only forsake our sin, but actually hate it.

And our hatred of our sin, and the realization of our personal culpability of those sins being part of the reason Jesus was murdered, will also lead us to say what God says after we have been forgiven. When God has forgiven us, we have no authority to continue accusing ourselves before Him. To do so is to align ourselves with “the accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10).

Our confession is also one which encourages accountability. James said we are to “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16) Our secret sins are the ones which entangle us like the little wooden chair left out in the living room at night that finds our shin and throws us to the ground. But being open and honest about our struggles with our fellow believers helps us to overcome those habitual sin patterns so that we can walk in the light, not the darkness.

but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7).

As long as we walk in fear of being exposed, we will never know the freedom that could be ours in Christ. Jesus put it this way:

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. (John 3:19, 20)

So let us hit sin with the very weapon that will cause it to shrink back — the light. King David discovered this secret thousands of years ago, and God has preserved it for us today in Psalm 32.

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah. I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah. (Psalm 32:1-5 NASB)

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Being Terminal

I am terminal, and so are you. No, I don’t have some dreaded disease. Let me explain what I mean.

A few years ago, country singer Tim McGraw wrote a hit song that was inspired by his experience with his father who died from brain cancer. It was called “Live Like You Were Dying” and the message was one about how differently people live if they know the have a terminal disease. It certainly does provoke some deep thinking. What would we do differently? How would we treat others? What things would not be left unsaid?
Well I’ve got news for you. According to the Bible I’m terminal and so are you!

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, (Hebrews 9:27 ESV)

Well there you have it. Every one of us has an appointment with death that is certain to happen. If that’s not terminal, then what is? How long do you have? That is something none of us knows. It may be tomorrow, and it may be 90 years from now. But with this in mind, how should we live?

First off, make sure of your relationship with God. Look in the bible and find out what you must do to be saved. Don’t take someone else’s word for it, either. A dying man or woman needs to get the facts for themselves by doing their own research. You cannot afford to be wrong!

For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2 ESV)

Regarding salvation, you should also not delay telling someone about Jesus so that they can have faith in Him, too! Do not put it off until tomorrow. It could be your last chance to tell them, or their last chance to hear it. You are both terminal, so you can’t be sure. People’s eternal destiny hangs in the balance, so don’t withhold the Gospel because you don’t think they will receive it. Jesus could read men’s heart, not you. Plant the seed or water it, and let God provide the harvest!

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6, 7 NKJV)

Another thing to do is to walk in love and forgiveness. I have seen many people who made it their first order of business upon learning they were terminally ill, to make sure they had forgiven everyone, and asked for forgiveness where needed. Impending death has a way of clarifying what is important in life. I have also seen some weep with regret over things left unsaid. As our first verse said, we are all going to die, so make sure your relationships with others are right, with no thanks, or apologies left unsaid.

Lastly (although I am sure there could be more) do great things for God. Consider this for a moment. What would you do in service and love for God if you knew you would not fail? Would you learn a language and reach out to those from other cultures here or abroad with the Good News of Jesus? How far out of your comfort zone would you be willing to go to be a living epistle and show someone the love of God? Think about it! Jesus said He would be with us always, so you have nothing to fear and everything to gain.

When this life is over, wouldn’t it be wonderful to say along with the Apostle Paul:

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 NKJV)

Time is running out. People are dying every day that don’t know Jesus. Do something! Live the adventure in Christ, and live like you were dying!

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