Tuesday, December 9, 2014
In Search Of Truth, Hebrews 9:11-14
Hebrews 9:11-14 (ESV)
11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
In previous verses, the author of Hebrews explains the ultimately ineffective nature of the sacrifices of the Old Covenant. While these sacrifices demonstrated the problem of sin, they didn't provide a complete and lasting solution. The author now contrasts the failings of the Old Covenant sacrifices with the absolute effectiveness of Christ's sacrifice.
As we've observed previously by looking at the meaning and purpose of "priests", we're reminded again here that Jesus functions at the perfect "go between" for us and God. His service in this role has secured all of the "good things" promised to believers. This includes:
1. rescue from punishment we deserve for our selfishness and ungrateful rebellion against God,
2. increasing rescue from lives devoid of purpose and crippled by self-destructive sin, and
3. future permanent rescue from all tendency toward and exposure to evil of any kind.
These three forms of rescue (which theologians call Justification, Sanctification and Glorification respectively) summarize the various contextual uses of the Greek word for "Salvation", which the author of Hebrews (and the other New Testament writers) uses to describe what Jesus has done for us as High Priest. (Hebrews 5:5-10, 7:23-8:13)
Jesus accomplished this relational repair between us and God, not through the earthly temple or tabernacle, but through a method or process unique to God, that the tabernacle was only a shadow of.(Hebrews 8:5)
Jesus accomplished this through a "once for all" and "eternal" act of sacrifice. The old system required priests to offer animal sacrifices again and again to deal even with unintentional sin and repair human relationship with God. But Jesus' single sacrifice of his own, perfect life, was enough to repair all relational damage between us and God.
There may be times where, on our side of the conversation, we need to clear the air with God in order to experience closeness to him. But the Bible teaches that if any believer chooses to draw near to God, God will draw near to them. (James 4:8) Because our sin has been dealt with in terms of justice, there is no penalty hanging over our heads as we converse with God. He is ready to be as relationally close with us as we will let him!
Under the Old Covenant, the sacrifice of specific animal types was enough to make someone or something fit for the purpose of serving and relating to God, at least temporarily and in a very limited way. The author argues that it's only reasonable that if animal blood could accomplish that, then the blood of Jesus, the perfect man (who is Yahweh himself in human form), in cooperation with the Holy Spirit and offering himself to God (presumably The Father), could do far more!
So what more did his sacrifice accomplish? For starters we are free from "dead works". When looking at Hebrews 6:1 we found that "dead works" refers to activity intended to earn good standing with God, or activity that contributes to relational separation from God. Engaging in "dead works" only leads to an awareness of our failure and shortcomings. The only way to avoid this awareness is to "lower the bar" for ourselves, and try to convince ourselves that God isn't that concerned with evil. (Boy, wouldn't you love to spend eternity with a God who looks at evil and just kinda shrugs and says, "Oh well"? Yikes!)
Jesus has rescued us from the need to lie to ourselves and from the depression and anxiety of failure and shortcoming! Not only that, but he has done this with a purpose greater than simply giving us pleasure. Jesus has rescued us and given us purpose greater than anything we could assign to ourselves! We are rescued to "serve the living God"! We can now have a role in bringing about his agenda for the universe!
Keep in mind, the sacrifice of Jesus that makes this possible is an "eternal, once for all" sacrifice. Our moments of social significance may come and go or never seem to arrive. That great job or career may not last. But for believers in Jesus, every day is a day we are fit for God's agenda.
Maybe you've felt overlooked or misunderstood. Maybe you've felt like you don't fit in and God probably doesn't have much use for you. But that mindset doesn't make any sense in light of what Jesus has done for us! Each of us is uniquely and strategically gifted by God and positioned where we are at, among the people we know or may soon get to know, to bring about the plans of God.
The entertainment world, through both stories and celebrities, is trying to define significance for you and I, whether they mean to or not. It's my natural tendency to attach my significance to how many people know who I am and what they think of me. But our significance is not so shallow and temporary as what we accomplish or what people think of us. It is found in the fact that God has given us a purpose that will NEVER be taken away, that we can choose to enter into more deeply in every moment of every day.