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Question: How are you right with God?
Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.
Even though my conscience accuses me
of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments
and of never having kept any of them
and even though I am still inclined toward all evil,
without my deserving it at all,
out of sheer grace,
God grants and credits to me
that perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,
as if I have never sinned nor been a sinner,
as if I had been as perfectly obedient
as Christ was obedient
All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.
–Heidelberg Catechism, Q. 60
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)
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.
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,
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. (Hebrews 9:11-14)
I remember a few weeks back when accusations were pounding my mind. I saw my weakness and sins so clearly. The voice said to me that there was no way that one as sinful as I could every hope to minister to others. Whether it was the struggle over sins I have had for years or new sins I saw in myself the voice seemed to be speaking truth. How could one who had so many problems be presentable to a holy God for service?
Thankfully the Lord spoke Hebrews 9 to His people. I came across this section in the midst of this trial and was so encouraged. For here the Lord makes clear that the the foundational purity for our service to God does not come through us but by the sacrifice of Christ. He was sacrificed to “purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”
According to the section Jesus came as the Great High Priest of the New Covenant. One of the roles of the priest was to purify people and things so that they could stand before a holy God. Yet, in the Old Covenant they only had the blood of goats and calves to do it. very temporal in its effect. Yet, Christ, when he came as High Priest, gave the blood of God himself. His blood gives security which last eternally! The sacrifice of Christ on the cross makes a purchase which lasts forever. And so think, if the blood of goats and calves made one pure before God, how strong, deep, and lasting is the purity which Christ’s blood gives!? Thus, the arthur of Hebrews declares that because of Christ our consciences are purified from dead works. And now we can serve the living God.
The Christian’s works are not dead before God. To be dead is to be useless. At one point our works were useless to God. Outside of Christ there is no acceptable sacrifice. But now dead works are cleansed away. We can be useful to the sovereign God of the universe!
We can serve Him. The purity for service comes from the blood of Christ. In Him and through him sinners can offer up acceptable services to God. How wonderful this is. The level of the believer’s sin can be so deep that there is no tracing. Very pure actions can still be tainted with wrong motives in the midst of good motives. But what makes these actions pleasing to God is not the perfection of the believer but the perfection of the sacrifice which has been given for him.
How does this affect us as believer’s in Jesus?
1. We are freed from guilt to serve our God. The Lord is not waiting for us to be perfect in our service. For our imperfect offerings come to the Father through the perfect mediation of Christ. You can step out and serve in the little or big ways not worrying if God will take notice or not. He does! Our works are alive to God through Christ. Serve boldly!
2. Our works are real. The small acts of talking to the unpopular or different person. The hospitality shown to believers and unbelievers. The street preaching of the gospel that does not bare any immediate fruit are not dead! They are alive! We are cleansed from dead works and by Christ our offerings are real. We serve the living God and He is pleased!
3. We are freed to worship. When we come to worship we do not tally up our obedience to see if we can stand before Him. We confess our sins and trust in the perfect atonement of Christ. Our service of worship is purified before the Lord because we offer our praises through the perfect worship of Christ. We do not have to have everything right in our lives and with our worship practices. Because the believer is clothed in the righteousness of Christ he can worship before a holy God. And it will be accepted!
4. We can be patient with the imperfection of others. The Lord is patient with His people. He has cleansed them by Christ and yet is working to conform them in person from one degree of glory to the next. If this is the Lord’s attitude it should be ours as well. We can still love the brethren when worship and service is not perfect. Just because we see problems in some areas does not mean that God is not pleased and things must change instantly. Our perfection is in Christ and not in a local body having every line perfectly straight. Imperfect sinners can serve the living God because of their trust in Christ.
In know that one can take these points in very unbiblical directions. In no way am I say that personal holiness does not matter in service and that one does not have to be qualified to be an elder. Nor am I suggesting that one cannot hurt others by unbiblical and foolish actions being called service. Neither would a say that a church can sin as much as they want and/or teach heresy and God does not care.
What I am trying to do, as the arthur of Hebrews is doing, is putting the gospel as the foundation of service. As Paul said in Romans 6 if the gospel has gripped one’s heart they do not want to sin. They do not want heresy preach and they want to be truly loving and helping in their deeds of service. What the gospel does is give the building where these things can grow and flourish. So let the grace of Christ train you “to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 3:12)
Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:12)
One of the core distinctives of Christianity, especially in the culture of secular America, is the claim of exclusivity. The Lord has established one means for separated sinners to become reconciled to God. There is one God and only one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Only by repenting of sins and putting faith in the atoning work of Jesus is one forgiven of sins and given eternal life. If one does not adhere to this singular way then they are lost.
How can such a claim be made!? Such a claim is charged with the height of arrogance. Would not this make us a mean, hateful, and boastful people? Taking our claim and lifting our heads above all those who, “don’t have what we have.” How can we believe such a thing?
Against this, I believe that when we look at the cross we can understand Christ’s call of exclusivity.
When we look at the cross we see the greatest demonstration of love towards those who did not deserve it. “But God demonstrates His love towards us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). And this demonstration of love comes with the greatest pain. The perfect Son torn from the the most glorious and enjoyable relationship (the Son and the Father) on account of wrongs He did not do.
The absolute truth of Christ’s death, when believed rightly, makes loving people. It makes those who would still love in the face of wrongs done against them. It makes people who love in the face of opposing ideas. If Christ is so loving then the more I trust in His work and His character the more I am going to demonstrate His love. The lack of love that can come from Christians is not because of Christ but because of the lack of Christ. Thus, to magnify the cross is to dethrone pride and arrogance.
But to come around to the flip side, because Christ’s death is the great demonstration of love it would be an insult to say that it was pointless. The exclusivity of Christ’s death, that there was no other way which it could be done, is the reason that it was the greatest demonstration of love. If Jesus’s death on the cross is not the only way that sinners become right with God then Jesus was a sad fool who gave up everything for nothing. Think about it. If I could obtain God’s pleasure and eternal life by my good works or sincere worship of something else then Jesus’ death is completely pointless. For why would it be needed? And since it is not needed it is not love but ignorance (at best) which took Jesus to the cross. Why would He need to die for me if I get everything through something else besides the cross? It is to insult the act of love its self to suggest that there is another way.
Jesus is either the only way or only a fool. But since Jesus’ death was of love it is the only way.