Tag Archives: Jesus

The Blood of Jesus – Clean

I remember as a little kid jumping into the shower after a long day of playing outside (Yes, kids actually played outdoors once upon a time) and the water ran brown with the dirt I had accumulated on my adventures.  It felt good to be clean and fresh and smell good.  It’s a good feeling to be clean isn’t it?  But sin stains our souls and makes us feel dirty and unclean.  It’s that feeling of uncleanliness that we try to expunge through various acts of contrition, through vowing never to do “it” again, through promising to try harder, but sometimes we continue to feel impure, unclean.  The stain on our soul is too deep and we instinctively know that we cannot approach a holy God in that state of uncleanliness so we shrink back and we avoid Him.

King David faced his sin with Bathsheba directly knowing that he could not undo what he had done and that he was powerless to clean himself up.  So David cried out to God for cleansing, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (Ps 51:7), because he knew that only God could do it.  That’s where we are today.  We know we have sinned, we sense the stain on our soul and we are powerless to erase it.  Yet that is exactly where the Blood of Jesus meets us and addresses this seemingly impossible situation.

 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)

Please read those last few words carefully – The Blood cleanses us from ALL sin.  We are in fact clean and sparkly inside.  There is no shame and no need to fear to approach Him because we don’t feel clean.  We ARE clean and pure.  If we would take the time to consider this and let it sink deeply into our souls I think we would experience great joy and freedom.

There is a TV commercial for a laundry detergent that claims it can remove ten thousand and one stains.  I can tell you definitively that the Blood of Jesus can remove ten million and one stains from our soul.  Go to Him and He will purify you and wash away all the filth that has accumulated on your soul throughout your life.  Let’s not be afraid; let’s not shrink back, instead let us run to Him and enjoy a life untainted.

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The Blood of Jesus – Mercy

There is a great church-y word that we never hear in normal conversation, don’t understand and usually skip right over it when we come across it.  When we hear it our eyes glaze over and we become positively catatonic.  What we actually hear – “blah-blah-ation.”  That word is Propitiation.  We find it in several New Testament verses.

… whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.    (Romans 3:25).

He [Jesus] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son [to be] the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10)

The word propitiation simply means to appease or placate so that when God looks at our sin His wrath and condemnation are placated or satisfied by the blood of Jesus.  In other words, because of the Blood God does not let loose His lightning bolts to smite us.  He is no longer angry at us.  But there is an even more beautiful word picture here.  I’ll quote David Guzik:

A propitiation: The ancient Greek word for propitiation is also used in the Septuagint [Greek Old Testament] for the mercy seat, the lid covering the Ark of the Covenant, upon which sacrificial blood was sprinkled as an atonement for sin. While it might be said that this passage [1 John 2:2] means “Jesus is our mercy seat,” it probably has the more straightforward idea of propitiation – a substitute sacrifice.

At the same time, the “mercy seat” idea should not be neglected as an illustration of propitiation. Inside the Ark of the Covenant was the evidence of man’s great sin: the tablets of law; the manna received ungratefully; the budded rod of Aaron, showing man’s rejection of God’s leadership. Up over the Ark of the Covenant were the symbols of the holy presence of the enthroned God in the beautiful gold cherubim. In between the two stood the mercy seat, and as sacrificial blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), God’s wrath was averted because a substitute had been slain on behalf of sinners coming by faith. We really can say that Jesus is our “mercy seat,” standing between guilty sinners and the holiness of God.

Jesus our mercy-seat! It doesn’t get better or more beautiful than that.  So by faith in “the Blood” we benefit from the propitious, covering, mercy-giving nature of His sacrifice.  The Blood acts to cover us, hide us from the wrath of God for our sin.  The notion of the Blood as representing the mercy seat is powerful.  It is the Blood that allows God to see US as precious, accepted children and not objects of judgement and condemnation.  We are freed from that condemnation as God sees the Blood and turns away from wrath to mercy.  In mercy we are able to approach God.  The Blood makes possible the re-introduction of Father to children.

So when I feel defeated by sin, when I think I’ve finally stepped over the line and God has just turned His back on me I remember the Blood.  I step under the covering of the mercy seat and I thank God that Jesus bled on my behalf.  I don’t have to cower or fear.  God doesn’t see my sin instead He sees Jesus.

The Blood of Jesus Considered

When Adam ate the forbidden fruit he really mucked things up! That one act of disobedience has continued to plague mankind since then until now.  The effects were devastating to Adam himself and to his relationship with God.  Consider that when Adam disobeyed God’s command he became guilty of breaking God’s law; Adam was guilty of a crime and deemed a criminal by Heaven.  And of course, Adam’s sin literally separated him from God’s presence.  He was kicked out the Garden and no longer could Adam walk and talk with God in close communion.   The relationship between God and Adam was ruptured and now the two close friends were enemies.  It goes without saying that Adam lost his intimacy with God.  But that’s not all, Adam’s disobedience forever tarnished him with the stain – the impurity and uncleanliness – of his sin.  There’s more but I’ll stop there.  All this because of a piece of fruit!  Do you think Adam would have taken that bite if he knew just how destructive that bite would be?

The effects of Adam’s sin have characterized human experience since that fateful moment and we have ever since made our own unfruitful efforts to recover what Adam lost.  All to no avail.  How can a dead, guilty, impure soul approach a Holy God on its own merit or effort?  He cannot and so he is forever doomed to this separated existence.

This is where the power of the Blood of Jesus comes in.  When you search the New Testament you will find remarkable and life-giving statements that address and reverse every consequence of Adam’s fall.  We learn that the Blood of Jesus provides a path to becoming guilt-free, reconciled to God, pure and clean in His eyes.  Through the Blood we gain an unprecedented intimacy with Him and we are literally transferred from darkness into His light.  It undoes everything Adam did!  It establishes our confidence in approaching the Father.  It assures us of a warm reception into His presence.  It provides the ammunition to dismiss the condemnation heaped upon us, either from ourselves or the devil, when we do fail.  It is no magic elixir to be “applied” to our stuff, it is the Truth of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension that we receive in wonder and worship into our spirits.  It is the foundation upon which we build our Christian walk.

But before I go too much further let me clarify one important point.  When the New Testament refers to “the Blood” it is not primarily meaning the actual fluid the flowed through Jesus’ human veins.  It is a shorthand way of saying the death and resurrection of Jesus.  It is the same as saying “the Cross” or “His sacrifice.”  This is important because it demystifies “The Blood” and allows us to look at the entire teaching of Scripture regarding what Jesus accomplished on our behalf.

There is more depth and teaching on the Blood than I can possibly cover in these short posts and each topic deserves a treatment of its own.  I could write about “justification” in the Blood of Jesus (Romans 5:9); His Blood makes it possible for God to see us as not guilty.  Instead of punishing guilty sinners, He treats us as we had never sinned and are not considered guilty of any “crime.”  There is therefore no fear of punishment.  That’s a topic worth of hundreds of books, but enough said.

I could write about “redemption.”  God’s justice demands that some payment – the “fine” – imposed as a penalty for breaking His law be paid.  It’s great that we are not guilty, but we are still required to compensate God.  We may be declared judicially not guilty but we are still in our jail cell until the fine is paid.  We need some way or someone to pay the ransom in order to spring us from captivity. Fortunately, the Blood of Jesus has that covered.  Here’s my take on redemption.  Even though I know I’m forgiven and I’m no longer under condemnation for my sin, it still feels like I have to do something to pay God back for His kindness.  I don’t feel it’s fair that I get off scott free, so I try to find some way to “make it up” to God.  Redemption takes all that away.  Redemption is Jesus’ way of saying that we don’t owe anything.  Any obligation, any debt we incurred has been cleared.  I don’t have to walk around wondering if I’ve done enough.  I can never do enough to pay God back for my offense, but the good news is that I don’t have to.  But I won’t write about that either.

In the coming weeks, I will look at three aspects of the Blood that have impacted ME the most.  It’s the truths I fall back on when I am feeling defeated, dirty and distant.

Pleading the Blood…What?!

Allow me a moment to rant – with apologies to my more charismatic friends.  I have heard the phrase “plead the blood of Jesus” numerous times throughout my life.  The last time I heard it, a couple of months ago, something snapped in my mind and I said to myself, “What does that even MEAN?!”  I’ve always heard it used in association with dealing with some demonic influence in someone’s life.  We “plead the Blood” to ensure that Satan is convinced that we mean business.  It’s like using the phrase as a “power-up” to our prayer.  It’s not enough that we pray in the power and authority of Jesus, no, we need to append “pleading the blood” to make sure we are heard.  It’s like the devil perks up when he hears that and says to himself, “Well I guess I have to go now since they are pleading the blood.”  Really?  I don’t think it works that way.

But perhaps I as being too harsh or had misunderstood the use of the phrase, so I went online to search various teachers and websites to get a better perspective.  It only got worse!  One site actually taught that we should plead the blood over our stuff – our cars, houses, credit cards and finances.  They went on to say that when we did that our stuff would be protected from anything bad.  Our houses would be protected from hurricanes or tornadoes; our cars protected from breakdowns; our finances protected from identity theft or bad credit.  And we had to make sure that we pled the blood at least monthly otherwise the protective nature of the blood would expire!  I was horrified!  But perhaps this was an extreme case so I searched on.

A couple of sites told us that “pleading the blood” was a legal term (whatever that means) that we could use in prayer to “insist” that God grant our requests.  In other words, He owes us because we plead the blood.  Really? “INSIST?”  We are going to demand that God act according to our wishes just because we use the magical phrase!  I don’t think I would dare.  Many sites presented the same idea in various ways, but all suggested that the blood was to be used as a bargaining chip.  Never mind asking that His will be done, or that His kingdom come, or that our prayers would bring Him glory, instead let’s make sure we claim our right to ask for whatever we want.

Many sites promoted the protective nature of the blood.  They appealed to the Old Testament story of the Passover, where the blood of the sacrificed lamb brushed on their doorposts protected the Israelites from the angel of death.  These teachers then take that to mean that the blood of Jesus – our Passover Lamb will protect us from bad things happening to us.  I think that misses the point of that story.  The blood was not meant to protect their stuff but to save them from literal, physical death.  It foreshadowed the saving nature of Jesus’ sacrifice to deliver us from eternal death.  Nowhere in the New Testament is the idea that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection was meant to protect us in this life from bad things happening.  Nor are we ever instructed to “plead the blood” when we come before the Father in prayer.  Nor does the phrase even appear in the New Testament much less carry the seemingly magical powers ascribed to it.

OK, rant over.  I am truly, truly saddened (and angered) when I read these kinds of things.  I think it cheapens and misrepresents the power and glory of Christ’s death.  I think it reduces the splendor of Christ to a lucky charm.  I believe there is great power to radically transform lives when we properly understand the meaning of the Blood of Jesus.  But I don’t believe that “pleading the blood” is either necessary or biblical, at least, in the way it is commonly portrayed.  Over the next several weeks I will be looking at the New Testament teaching on “The Blood.  Let’s consider the wonder of Jesus’ sacrifice and stand in awe of its power to undo all the effects of sin and disarm the devil.  Only then can we rightly “plead the blood” in a way that honors Him.

Galatians 3:27 – Putting On Christ

Perhaps you remember your high school or college graduation ceremony. You march across the stage in your cap and gown to receive your hard earned diploma.  The ceremony represents a person’s move from one stage in life into a new, fuller, more mature life. And the cap and gown an outward representation of that change of life. However at the end of the ceremony the cap is thrown into the air and the gown discarded.  Do we remember the next day that we are supposed to be and act as adults?  Paul gives us a much more powerful image of what it means to be a Christian.  It isn’t about outward show or playing “dress-up”, but about our true identity.  He reminds us of the new identity we received when we gave ourselves to Christ in baptism.

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Gal 3:27)

Paul is not simply pointing to an outward symbol or show we are participating in; we are, in fact, different people.  We carry the image of Christ with us.  We are “immersed” in the person and character of Jesus Himself.  We should disappear into Him and He should be more visible.

Again, let me quote from David Guzik’s commentary: “Here, using the picture of baptism, Paul illustrates what it means to have faith in Christ Jesus. He doesn’t say we were baptized into water, but baptized into Christ. Just as in water baptism a person is immersed in water, so when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, we are immersed in Jesus…Another way of expressing our immersion in Jesus is to say that we have put on Christ. In the original language, the phrase has the idea of putting on a suit of clothes. So we “clothe ourselves” with Jesus as our identity.  The stress here is on our identity in Jesus through faith. We aren’t simply associated with Jesus; we are identified in Him.

In the original Greek this verse is in the past tense; it is a statement of completed fact. So we have already “put on Christ.”  Being in Christ is simply who I am, not what I do.  It is a matter of identity.  I have already put on Christ – and continue to do so.  I am already immersed in Christ and continue to be immersed throughout my day.

How do I live “putting on Christ?”  When I consider that my mouth is His mouth, I would be more careful in how I speak.  If I consider that my eyes are His eyes, I would rethink the things I look at and how I look at them.  If I consider that my hands are His hands, I would be more respectful of the things I do – how I work and how I play.  Is this meant to make me feel guilty?  No.  Let’s also consider that my mouth can now speak blessing, life, peace and comfort to others.  Consider that I can see others as He sees them, with compassion and grace.  Consider that my hands can touch a person to bring healing.  That is the wonder of putting on Christ.  It’s not something I need to conjure up or pray myself up, but instead it is an awareness of His constant presence, power and provision with me and that I am able to bring Jesus into any situation I may face.

Galatians 3:10-14 – Becoming the Curse

We don’t like to talk about it.  We don’t hear many sermons preached on it.  We’d rather not bring it up.  We’d rather focus on the happy news.  But the truth is there are consequences to sin.  Unrighteousness does, indeed, bring wrath and judgement.  Nothing makes this as clear as Romans 1:16.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men

In this next section of his letter to the Galatians, Paul explains how and why we would come under God’s curse.  (Don’t worry there is good news at the end).  Remember that Paul’s main argument is that we cannot be saved by self-effort, by rule-keeping, by trying to earn God’s favor by any means that flows out of our works.  In other words, keeping the Jewish Law or keeping any religious rules does not earn us salvation.  Here, in verse 10, he goes further and actually says that anyone who relies on rule-keeping is under God’s curse because they would have to keep 100% of the rules 100% of the time for their entire life.

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” (Gal 3:10)

The word “all” is key to Paul’s argument.  He is making the point that those “who rely on works of the law” are required to keep “all” the commandments and that missing one immediately places one under the curse. This means that everyone is, in fact, under the curse because no one is able to keep all the law all the time.  Many people would like to omit the word “all” and give themselves some wiggle room to say, “I can keep most of the law and be ok.”  Paul would argue strenuously that this is not true.  There’s no other way to put this: This is really bad news!  We are stuck with no way out.

Now here is where the Good News come in – the really good news.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Gal 3:13)

David Guzik, in his commentary on this verse says, “The punishment of being hanged on a tree, and left to open exposure, was thought to be so severe, that it was reserved only for those for which is was to be declared: ‘this one is accursed of God.’  Jesus not only died in our place; but He took the place as the accursed of God, being hung on a ‘tree’ in open shame and degradation.”

And Martin Luther wrote, “Our merciful Father in heaven saw how the Law oppressed us and how impossible it was for us to get out from under the curse of the Law. He therefore sent His only Son into the world and said to Him: ‘You are now Peter, the liar; Paul, the persecutor; David, the adulterer; Adam, the disobedient; the thief on the cross. You, My Son, must pay the world’s iniquity.’ The Law growls: ‘All right. If Your Son is taking the sin of the world, I see no sins anywhere else but in Him. He shall die on the Cross.’ And the Law kills Christ. But we go free.”

So hanging on a tree was not just about the means of execution, which is what we normally assume, but it was a demonstration of the curse of God upon this person.  In the case of Jesus, the cross was both a means of execution according to the Romans to display the vileness of the criminal but also a symbol to the Jews of God’s curse upon Jesus.  So both Jew and Gentile look upon the cross as a demonstration of the utter contemptibility of the person hanging there.  Jesus took the curse for both Jew and Gentile.  He became the curse so that we would not have to.

The point here is remarkable.  Christ the innocent Son of God took on Himself the full demands of the law and the sinfulness that it pointed to in all of us.  The law demanded perfection and anything less than that incurred God’s wrath and curse.  Jesus stepped into that and “took the bullet” for us.  I am therefore free of the curse and free of the unrelenting, oppressive and crushing demands of the law.  I walk in the knowledge, freedom and comfort that God is not waiting to “zap” me when I get out of line.  Instead he looks upon the work of Christ, the curse being lifted, the demands being fulfilled and He loves me.  ME!

Galatians 3:1 – On Being Foolish

No one likes to be called foolish.  It can certainly hurt someone’s feeling, yet this is exactly what Paul calls the Galatian disciples.  Saying someone or something is “foolish” can simply be another way of saying “silly” or “dumb”, but perhaps  with a more negative connotation.  Dictionary.com defines it as: “resulting from or showing a lack of sense; ill-considered; unwise.”  However, I like the definition of the word given by William Hendriksen in his commentary on Galatians: “…the original indicates an attitude of heart as well as a quality of mind.  It refers not to bluntness but to a sinful neglect to use one’s mental power to the best advantage.  The Galatians…must be considered not necessarily dull but thoughtless, not ignorant but senseless, not stupid but foolish.” 1

This is what Paul says to the Galatians:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.  Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?  (Gal 3:1-3)

What prompted Paul’s strong words?  His frustration that the Galatians weren’t thinking straight about the Gospel.  They were missing the whole point and were in danger of being sucked back into a works-based religion which leads nowhere.

This isn’t the only place in the New Testament where we are warned of the dangers of foolishness.

Luke 24:24-25 – Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”  And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (ESV)

Titus 3:3 – For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.  (NAS)

1 Tim 6:9 – But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. (NAS)

There seems to be a deliberateness to being foolish, an unwillingness to fully embrace what God has done or said.  So in Luke, Jesus chides the disciples for not believing what He had said about His resurrection or even the report of the women.  In our unsaved state, Paul lumps the idea of foolish with disobedient, deceived and enslaved.  All associated with a rejection of God’s grace.  And in Timothy, those who seek wealth as opposed to God fall into many foolish things.

So being foolish seems to me to be that heart condition which Hendriksen comments on, a sinful neglect of embracing the truth of the gospel and instead accepting the ideas of men.

The Galatians then were being foolish; they were deliberately rejecting the gospel of Christ that Paul proclaimed to them, the gospel that brought them freedom from one works-based religion – pagan idolatry – and returned to another works-based religion this time disguised as “obeying the law of Moses”.

Paul repeats the same charge of foolishness in verse 3.  Here he says it is foolish to begin in the Spirit but then switch to the flesh to continue our in own effort to grow as Christians.  There is that deliberate, foolish rejection of what Jesus has already done and accomplished.

In what ways are we foolish?  When do I say to myself, God’s can’t really mean that, can He?  It is too simple, too far-fetched, preposterous, improbable.  It can’t be that easy just to believe Him, so we create reasons for having to do something ourselves.  What can I do to make Him love me more?  Should I spend more time reading the Bible?  Should I go to church more often?  Should I give more money?  Should I get involved in every and any activity that my church sponsors?  Maybe, I should just beat myself up more for not being more perfect?  That would certainly show Him I’m serious.  All this is foolishness.  It is being too dull of heart and mind to simply rest in the truth He has given us.  It seems that we cannot fully accept the simplicity and completeness of what Jesus did.  So we must have to “do” something, right?  Isn’t that a symptom of our old flesh still rising up to be independent of God?  Isn’t that the remnants of our rebellious heart?  Isn’t that…foolishness?

As I studied this passage, I had to ask myself, “Where in my life am I still trying to accomplish God’s purpose in my own power?  How can I keep before my eyes Christ crucified and rest on Him fully?”  I found part of my answer in the words to an old hymn.

’Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,
Just to take Him at His Word;
Just to rest upon His promise,
And to know, “Thus saith the Lord!”

 

 

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 1 Hendriksen, W., Exposition of Galatians (New Testament Commentary), Grand Rapids, 1968