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Saturday, February 12, 2011

One Sacrifice - Total Forgiveness

11-18Every priest goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem. As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in. It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process...once sins are taken care of for good, there's no longer any need to offer sacrifices for them.
(Hebrews 10:11-18)

In the Old Testament, we find a "system" of sacrifices designed to point us toward the atoning sacrifice of Christ - a one time sacrifice that accomplished atonement for sin like no other sacrifice was possible of doing.  In the Book of Hebrews, Jesus is presented to us as our "High Priest" - as the one who offered the perfect sacrifice.  That perfect sacrifice was his life - totally surrendered to the will of the Father.  The old system of sacrifices served a purpose - they pointed us toward the idea that a sacrifice was needed to atone for sins.  They emphasized the importance of that sacrifice being a "blood sacrifice" - it was by the shedding of blood that atonement was made (forgiveness of sins and restoration of relationship with a holy God).

The writer of Hebrews points out that the "same old sacrifices" were offered year in and year out - not making a dent in the problem of sin.  They would not do that because, at best, they were "close to perfect", but still imperfect and incapable of providing the fullness of atonement that only a truly "holy" sacrifice could provide.  That holy sacrifice was Christ.  His sacrifice was one time - that was it!  I would like us to see that the "system of sacrifices" was to come to an end when Christ's atoning sacrifice was accepted by the heavenly Father.  They had accomplished their purpose of pointing us toward the need for atonement - now that was fully accomplished in Christ, so the need no longer existed.

We may not go around slaughtering bulls, turtle doves, and the like today - offering them on crudely built stone alters - but we do still engage in this system of repetitive "offerings" and "sacrifices" in how we view sin's activity in our lives.  Let me unwrap that a little for you.  Every time we bring our past sins to God (those already confessed, placed on the alter before God, and covered with the blood of his Son's sacrifice), we are saying that we need to "offer again" the sacrifice that will bring atonement for those PAST sins.  We are guilty of remembering our sin - but we are not guilty of repeating our sin.  Remembering is a powerful tool we use to keep ourselves in a position of believing that Christ's sacrifice was not a "one time" deal - we think we need to have those same sins forgiven over and over again.  Forgiveness is complete with the FIRST sacrifice - we just have to believe that!

Once we have confessed a sin, truly desirous of having it forgiven by God, it is forgiven completely - there is no record of that wrong.  For us to keep our own record is against what scripture teaches us about God's character - forgiveness is complete, love is unconditional, and grace is undeserved - there is no record kept.  Once sins are taken care of for good, there is no need to offer the sacrifices for them over and over again!  

Imagine the life of the Old Testament priest - daily going to the alter with the knowledge that he would have to slaughter those animals, go through the ritual of pouring out that blood on the alter, only to do it all over again tomorrow!  That is NOT the case with the one who puts their faith in the sacrificial offering of Christ - one sacrifice, one time, and sin's fate met its match!  What we lack is trust in God's ability to forget our sins - something we have the hardest time doing ourselves.  God's love is unconditional - ours is based on conditions (you do this, I'll do that).  God's grace is undeserved - ours is based on merit (you perform this way, you get this reward or punishment).  God's forgiveness is complete - ours is based on how well someone performs after they have asked for forgiveness.  

God's sacrifice did not give us immediate perfection in the sense that we suddenly begin to act and think differently - but it is a beginning point whereby our actions are molded into those that reflect the "grace work" he began by his atoning sacrifice.  Growth is incremental - the changing of how we think about our sin is a step-by-step process.  We embrace grace, step into his love, and allow him to show us that forgiveness.  He does the rest.  Isn't it time that we begin to view our sins the way God does?  Once on the alter, they are done away with!