The biggest ‘but’ in history

There must be numerous contenders for the most game-changing word in the history of the world, but today I’m going with this one: ‘but.’

Today I was reading through Mark chapter 14 and was meditating on the time Jesus spent in the garden of Gethsemane before he went to the cross.

The first half of verse 36 struck me like never before. Jesus was praying and said these words: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.”

In this are two profound things. First, Jesus knew that God could do anything. He knew that it was well within the power of his Father to pull the pin on redemption and instantly take His son back into the eternal glory from which He had come. Furthermore, Jesus asked for it. Such was his agony at the thought of what he was to endure, that he asked his Father to remove it from him.

The Father would not deny the Son. Except for one entirely game-changing word: ‘but.’

At the most intensely pivotal moment the world has seen, the Son surrendered his will to His Father’s saying ‘Yet not what I will, but what you will,’ and the Father, in that moment of Jesus’ submission, overruled the will of His Son. Together they endured the cross, despising the shame, for the redemption of mankind.

How grateful I am for Jesus’ submission to the will of His Father, and how challenged I am by my lack of it.

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What I discovered about drinking the blood

Single Glass Of Wine

Knowing the God of the Bible, it is no surprise to me that His book is unparalleled in its elegance. The symbolism and imagery is astoundingly sophisticated considering the time period over which it was written and the number of different pens put to parchment.

One of the strongest symbols in the bible is that of blood. It is the blood of a living being that carries its life, and it is innocent blood that must be shed to cover guilt.

Two compelling pictures of blood impacted me in a new way recently, as I received a fresh understanding of the significance of the communion drink.

The first communion occurred at Passover time, drawing a direct connection to that night when the Israelites, enslaved in Egypt, painted the blood of a lamb over their doors so that they might be saved from the angel of death. This blood acted as an external covering that protected them from the wrath of God.

Jesus does something amazing when he institutes the new covenant. No longer are we to paint this blood covering on the outside, but we are to consume it. The blood of the new covenant transforms us from the inside out. As we drink the cup, we willingly take into ourselves the symbol of the atonement. This metaphor of Jesus’ blood enters our digestive system and is absorbed into our own bloodstream. In this profound image we are not just covered by the blood, we are transformed by it.

Don’t have Jesus as your backup plan

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Do you realize you don’t have to do anything good to get to heaven?

I’m so blessed to go to a church that is very focused on the Gospel. We are constantly reminded that we are saved by grace, not by works, and the more I am reminded of this, the more I realize I need to hear it.

Because the Gospel of Grace is completely counter intuitive

I was sitting in church last night while a friend preached from Hebrews 11 about the righteous being justified by faith. He reminded us that when we die and come before a Holy God, we will have nothing to commend ourselves other than our faith in the righteousness of Christ and his ability to cover our sin.

I found, in that moment, sin in my heart.

You see, I kind of treat Jesus like my back up plan.

I do good things to gain approval with God, and entrance to heaven, and when I fall far short (which I inevitably will), Jesus covers the rest.

WRONG

Jesus covers it all.

It’s hard for me to accept, and may take a lifetime to grasp, but Jesus isn’t filling the gaps where we’re lacking, he’s doing it all. He’s taking the dead (both spiritually and literally) and bringing them back to life.

When I stand before God, I will have nothing to recommend myself, just faith in the fact that Jesus will speak for me.

He’s no backup plan. He’s all or nothing.

My faith is not my own

little-girl-in-amusement-park-free-photo_385-86I had my mind blown the other night as I was talking to a friend and wrestling with the question that many Christians ask themselves at some point in their lives: ‘How do I know that I have believed?’
Was it when I was 5 and prayed a prayer to ask Jesus into my heart?

Was it when I was 12 and cried out to God because I was afraid of hell?

Was it when I was 22 and saw deep into my heart and recognised its sinfulness?

 

See the thing is, I feel that my comprehension of the gospel is so much greater now and it makes me wonder how I ever could have understood enough to have saving faith at age 5. I mean, I’d never even heard words like propitiation or atonement, and I couldn’t fully comprehend death or resurrection or depravity or righteousness. So how did I believe in things I knew nothing of?

 

The penny dropped last night. My faith is not my own. It is a gift from God. My saving faith at age 5 was not incomplete. It was not reliant on further revelation or deeper knowledge. As God’s gift to me it contained within it the fullness of that which is required for salvation. It was all there. I just didn’t understand it all yet.

 

If faith and belief were reliant on full comprehension then none of us could ever attain it.

Why was the blood of animal sacrifice a ‘pleasing aroma to the LORD?’

blood sacrificeI’m reading Leviticus. It’s tough going. There are rules and regulations listed in extreme detail, and a lot of directives involving the blood, fat, meat and regularity of animal sacrifices.

My housemate told me that she loves reading the Old Testament because of what it teaches her about God’s character, so I’ve been really focusing on what I can learn about who God is.

He seems to like blood.

The picture of God as presented in Leviticus appears demanding and somewhat brutal. How can the God I know and love have been so keen on the constant offerings of blood and flesh, to the point where he considers it a ‘pleasing aroma?’ It seems sadistic.

So I’ve been praying and meditating, and last week God gave me something powerful: It shows his abhorrence to sin.

So often I just ignore sin in my life. But God really hates it. He cannot abide it. There is absolutely nothing good or worthwhile in sin.

God doesn’t like death either. He created a world without it. But death has in it one redeeming feature that sin doesn’t have. Justice.

In the disgusting brutality of the shedding of blood, there was something good: The pleasing aroma of justice, which covered the stench of sin.

God was willing to endure the death of animals, and even of His own son, so that the sin of humanity could be washed away. It was not the smell of death that pleased God, but the smell of atonement.

My Anchor within the Veil

chain_2152701I love the metaphor of Jesus as an anchor. Sometimes I can almost physically feel it. On days when it seems as though the world is falling down around me, I remember Him as my anchor and I feel a certain strength through my core; a grounding in my feet.

About a year ago, I was introduced to the song Cornerstone by Hillsong United. (You can listen to it here)

One of the lines of the song says ‘My anchor holds within the veil.’ Had it not been explained to me, I don’t think I would have grasped the significance of the lyric.

In Jewish history, before the time of Christ, a veil separated the Holy of Holies (the dwelling place of God) from the rest of the temple. Only the high priest was allowed to go there to sprinkle the blood of atonement on behalf of the people.

Significantly, at the very time that Jesus died on the cross, that veil was supernaturally torn in two.  No longer was it a priest who had to represent the people, but Jesus, our Great High Priest, made a way for each of us to ‘boldly come before the Throne of Grace.’

Jesus is our anchor, holding fast our access beyond the veil. He gives us a constant, grounded connection to that most holy place. He is an anchor that cannot be moved. He is our security that we, when faced with a Holy God, will stand.

Jesus beside the Cross

torn-cross_21293264This weekend I visited the young adults’ camp for my church. While I was there our pastor spoke about having no confidence in the flesh or the law, but rather trusting fully in the person of Jesus Christ for both our salvation and sanctification. Even as he was speaking, I found myself wresting with my need to feel more repentant; to work harder to know Jesus, to somehow maneuver myself into the right frame of mind.

I closed my eyes and took my insecurities, fears and sins to the cross. But instead of laying them there and walking away, I wrestled with them. I wanted to do it right; I wanted to feel genuine; I wanted to know that I was truly repentant.

In my mind’s eye I saw the cross: empty, with blood running down across the muddy ground beneath my knees, and as I struggled with myself at the foot of the cross, I saw the face of Jesus, standing to the side. He looked on me in love and compassion, and gently reminded me ‘Sarah, it is finished.’

When people come to the cross, attempting by human effort to make some form of restitution for their own sins, they will not find Jesus hanging there. Instead He stands beside it, to remind them that ‘It is finished.’ There is nothing we can add to the cross. Jesus paid it all, and then it was finished, for now and forever.