Sunday, March 27, 2016

Which Side are You On?

  For many of us, the past week has offered private and corporate times of remembrance of Jesus' journey to the cross.  We celebrated His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem with children waving palm branches during church services.  There were love feasts and foot-washing services commemorating the Last Supper Jesus shared with his disciples and providing the opportunity to love and serve one another with  humility, as He did on that evening, even though knowing one of his closet followers would betray him.  We reflected on the time that was spent in the Garden of Gethsamane and pondered how his friends could sleep when Jesus was in such deep agony and grief over the darkness and suffering he would experience in just a few short hours that his sweat fell as great drops of blood. 

 We watched movies that portrayed pain that not one of us could ever begin to imagine - both physical and emotional pain, as he was insulted, beaten with lead-tipped whips, spat upon, and pierced with thorns on his brow and nails through his hands and feet.  As parents, we can't imagine the anguish one would feel watching their child endure such brutality.  We pondered how one can be mindful of the needs of those around him while hanging on a cross, struggling for each breath that sustains life.  We wept at knowing that He did this willingly because of his great love for us and desire to be in relationship with us.  

Today we rejoice in his resurrection.  We sing Alleluia, and hail him King of kings and Lord of Lords, and declare his sovereignty over all that is.  We proclaim his greatness and declare his victory over sin and death. We celebrate the new life we have in Jesus and we go through the day with a renewed sense of hope, joy and promise.  

So, how does this affect your tomorrows?  Just before Christ died, he said, "It is finished." 
Through his death on the cross, Jesus completed the work of salvation.  He was the final sacrificial Lamb and his death brought an end to the work of following strict rules, guidelines, and making sacrifices to atone for our sins. 
Once for all time he took blood into that Most Holy Place, but not the blood of goats and calves.  He took his own blood, and with it he secured our salvation forever.   Under the old system, the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow could cleanse people's bodies from ritual defilement.  Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our hearts from deeds that lead to death so that we can worship the living God.  For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. ~ Hebrews 9: 12-14

It feels so freeing to see the big, red "paid in full" stamp on an invoice after making the last payment for a big item, like a car or house.  In essence, that is what his blood has done for us.  There is no earthly work that we can or need to do to obtain his salvation.  When we believe in our hearts that He is Lord and receive the salvation that is freely extended to us, he covers us in his blood, makes us clean, and sets us free from our past sins. Sometimes we tend to hold onto our sins and feel unworthy of forgiveness for things we've done.  That is exactly where the enemy wants us to stay...trapped in the land of fear, guilt and on the far side of the cross and not experiencing the abundance of life and freedom extended to us on this side of the cross.  He wants to keep our shortcomings and sinful choices forefront in our minds and make us feel like we have to continually nail Christ on the cross for those things that haunt us.  God puts those things behind us when we acknowledge our need for him as our Savior and come to him with a repentant heart. 

He has removed our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. ~ Ps. 103:12

For Christ has entered into heaven itself to appear now before God as our Advocate.  He did not go into the earthly place of worship, for that was merely a copy of the real Temple in heaven.  Nor did he  enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the earthly high priest who enters the Most Holy Place year after year to offer the blood of an animal.  If that had been necessary, he would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began.  But no! He came once for all time, at the end of the age, to remove the power of sin forever by his sacrificial death for us.  And  just as it is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died only once as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people.  He will come again but not to deal with our sins again.  This time he will bring salvation to all those who are eagerly waiting for him. ~ Hebrews 9:24-28

Before Jesus died on the cross, there was a curtain in the Temple that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, and in which only the high priest could enter, and only once a year.  When Jesus gave his last breath, this curtain - or veil - was torn in two, from top to bottom, signifying the work of Christ making the way for each of us to be able to approach God.   Once we receive Christ as our Savior, he gives us another gift...the Holy Spirit, who reveals the Father's heart toward us and breathes life into his Word, guides us through each day and makes us aware of new sin in our lives that needs to be repented of.  It is through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can face each day with confidence in who we are as a child of God and know that we are no longer slaves to the sinful nature and have been set free.  

Walk through each of your tomorrows in the freedom of living on this side of the cross!

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, "You are my disciples if you keep obeying my teachings.  And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."  ~ John 8:31-32