This guy goes to see his bank manager to discuss an overdraft facility. He asks, “How do I stand?” The manager replies: “You don’t stand, you grovel.”
So how do you stand before a God who knows everything about you, who knows the extent of your moral overdraft? Do you grovel before him, too?
It’s an age-old question. In Ancient Israel, the whole system of sacrifices was about getting yourself in a right standing with God. It was payment for a debt due.
But did it work? According to Hebrews 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. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshippers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
A shadow points to the thing, but it isn’t the thing. It’s the grey shape of it. Sacrifices pointed to something, but they weren’t the thing itself. They didn’t work; they only flagged up the issue of getting right with God. The writer goes on:
“Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, my God.”’
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.
Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’ He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
So this is the real thing. Jesus is the substance of which sacrifice and law was the shadow. The writer picks up the words from the Old Testament to explain what was going on. Jesus was a living, willing sacrifice. He sets aside the first covenant (the shadow) to establish the second (the substance). There’s a real difference between shadow and reality:
“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. But when this priest (JESUS) 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. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy.
This is a powerful statement. By one sacrifice on the cross, he has made perfect those who are being made holy. Forever.
Any good at grammar? Spot the two tenses. Something happened in the past and it was done and dusted. And something is going on in the present. In the past, when Jesus died on the cross, your sins were dealt with forever. In the present, you are being made holy. Bit by bit, moment by moment, the chiselling process is going on, making you more like Jesus.
But does this all mean then that it’s just a matter of trying harder to be good? You know what a scumbag I am, in my thoughts and words and sometimes by my own deliberate fault.
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with trying harder! Lord put a guard on my lips. Lord, keep my hands from evil. Direct my steps. Every day.
But there’s much more than that. The first point is that your sins have been dealt with. You are completely forgiven. It is finished. That fact is not based upon your performance, nor are you on probation. You are completely free. Saved. Born again. New creation. A whole new life.
And the writer goes on: “The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: ‘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. Then he adds:‘ Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.”
You sins have been buried in the deepest sea and God puts up a sign saying: No fishing! (as Corrie Ten Boom said). Your sins means past present and future. All of them.
So how do I live? In the power of the Spirit. He writes his laws inside and enables you to live in them. He remembers your sin no more. The Ten Commandments have stopped being the external bank manager before whom you are found wanting,. They have become the blueprint of the way you live. The Jesus way. If Christ is in you, you shall not steal, kill. You shall not! This is the law of the Spirit. There is no therefore no condemnation. Remember that old song?
“I’m accepted. I’m forgiven. I am fathered by the true and living God. I’m accepted. No condemnation. I am loved by the true and living God. And there’s no guilt or fear as I draw near to the Saviour and creator of the world. But there is joy and peace as I release my worship to you O God.”