Here we are just five days away from the most odious of all days on the calendar – April 15th. To be honest with myself and you, it is not just that it involves the payment that it does – though I support the Reaganesque concept of economic growth resultant from lower tax rates. The bigger problem is the actual annual headache it produces in terms of the piles of paperwork and meetings with accountants, etc. This is all greatly exasperated by family business ownership ventures along with unique tax categories for the clergy part of it – involving employee status for the IRS but self-employed status in terms of social security (I’m not making that up!). It is a mess to sort out!
It would be so wonderful to have a situation where it was simply not necessary anymore. Imagine that! Think about what it would be like to not have to pay so much money toward a government that spends so much of it (along with our kids’ and grandkids’ future money) in ways that are far from necessary or honorable. Imagine never again having to gather financial information, tax forms, accountant appointments, etc. That would be fantastic! It is said that there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. The annual experience of dealing with the latter makes you want to experience the former!
In the Old Testament / Old Covenant system of worship, it must have been a similar sort of pain to have to deal with sin. After arguing with his wife about whether the sheep in the backyard were a flock or a herd (either is correct), the worshipper was always having to pick out the best young lamb for yet another sacrifice. In honest self-evaluation, it was unjust to be angry about the situation – after all, as a sinner there was no ground for any attitude other than humble contrition and gratitude that a method existed for paying the great debt of sin. It was an annual reminder that a final payment had not been made, and that the best that could be found was always only temporary and short of the perfect ideal.
But in Christ, a new day has come. A new priest has come. This priest was like no other; he was of a different sort. He also brought a new sacrifice unlike any other. It was not some dumb bull or goat (like all the priests heretofore had done). He himself was the sacrifice, as well as the priest. The debt of the old system was paid and an entirely new system established. The new way had no necessity for annual or regular payments, all because there was no more debt to be paid. In fact, the debts have not only been paid, they have been erased and forgotten forever.
So, aren’t you glad that this coming Sunday you don’t have to bring a goat, sheep, bull, turtledove or whatever and slit its throat and sprinkle blood all over the place and burn it on an altar? Yep! And … uh … you ARE going to be there at church, right? I mean, after all, isn’t that the least you could do in light of what we’ve been studying about these cross words?
Now that I have gotten this far with these thoughts, and fearing that you might think I’m laying a guilt trip on you that is self-serving, I’m going to ask you to read just a bit farther in the chapter through verse 25. Here it is: 19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
OK – YES, I’M YELLING NOW! AND I’M DOING IT FROM THE HIGH GROUND OF BIBLICAL TRUTH! AND I DO NOT FEEL BAD ABOUT IT AT ALL. THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR NOT VALUING REGULAR ATTENDANCE WITH GOD’S PEOPLE. YOU NEED US; WE NEED YOU! DON’T GET INTO A HABIT OF NOT DOING IT! BE THERE! I’LL SEE YOU SUNDAY.
Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All
10 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. 4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me;
6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, my God.’”[a]
8 First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. 9 Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.”
17 Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
18 And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.
Cross Words for today …
Vicarious – This is really another word for “substitution” … the idea of how Christ took our place. In theology it is often used with the word atonement. So, to say “vicarious substitutionary atonement” would be to almost pile up redundant modifiers.
Assurance – The concept of the once-for-all final payment of Christ gives us assurance of salvation.
Efficacious Grace – This means that God’s grace has efficacy = sufficiency… that it works!