Day 29 – March 25

It’s Wednesday, March 25. Welcome back to our daily Lent Journey podcast. My name is Gina. Let’s read some scripture, reflect on it and pray together!

Theme: Jesus cleanses and transforms us

Scripture: Hebrews 10:4-10 (Living Bible)

Reflection

For thousands of years, humankind slaughtered animals as a way to erase their guilt and to win the favor of gods and spirits. The idea was to transfer their own sins to an animal. In this way, the people themselves didn’t have to die so that justice would be restored. The animal would die instead.

In this scripture, the writer of Hebrews explains why animal sacrifice was not a satisfactory system for restoring justice: Because sacrifices don’t stop the cycle of evil and suffering. If our sinful nature is not transformed, then we will just sin and sin and sin again. We’ll have to make sacrifice after sacrifice after sacrifice. And then we’ll sin and sin some more.

The word sin has two meanings. First, sin is for a specific act, thought or attitude that goes against God’s good plans for who He wants us to be. A sin can be a lustful thought that we embrace and explore, rather than pushing it out of our minds when it first intrudes on our thoughts. A sin can be a conversation laced with gossip; we engage even though we know it’s hurting everyone involved and we’ll probably regret it later. A sin can be taking comfort in eating too much food or from shopping instead of taking comfort from our relationship with God.

Then there is sin with a capital “S”: our posture of deciding that we will be in control of our own lives, instead of letting God be the Lord of our lives. This overarching posture is what leads to all the individual sins (with a lowercase “s”) that we commit against ourselves, others, and God.

Animal sacrifices did nothing to prevent people from committing future sins, nor did they cleanse people of their posture of sin – their tendency in thought, word, and deed to defy God by doing what they wanted, even when they knew it was wrong or that it would cause harm. After people sacrificed animals, they walked away no different than when they arrived at the temple to apologize for their sins. A slaughtered goat did not transform someone from the inside out into a new creation. A gutted bull did not replace someone’s selfish nature with one that starts to love others more than oneself. A dead pigeon did not daily whisper words of wisdom and caution into their minds, so that they could choose the loving words or actions before their default to the selfish ones.

When the writer says of God, “You were not satisfied with the animal sacrifices, slain and burnt before you as offerings for sin,” he does not mean that God is a voracious, bloodthirsty divinity who craves the overflowing of blood and death. He means that God was not satisfied with the system of sacrifices as a lasting solution to the problem of sin and evil. People were still sinning in abundance. They were still hurting themselves, each other, and God. They were still exploiting and oppressing each other. They were still selfish, trapped in destructive patterns of behavior and addiction to sin.

If all this injustice and suffering were going to be cut out at its root in each person, there had to be a new system to replace this faulty one.

So, the writer says, “After Christ said this about not being satisfied with the various sacrifices and offerings required under the old system, he then added, ‘Here I am. I have come to give my life.’”

Jesus’ death and resurrection canceled the first system in favor of a far better one. Under this new plan we can be forgiven and made clean by Christ’s dying for us, once and for all.

Because of this, the Holy Spirit now goes with us every moment of every day, guiding us, teaching us, and cleaning us from the wormy rot of our selfishness, which, unchecked, will eat us up from the inside out, and ultimately kill us.

This is good news! We can be different! We can be freed from our compulsions and addictions and posture to curl inward into ourselves. We can turn outward with love toward God, which empowers us also to turn outward in love to others without fear. As we learn to love God and receive His love, we can even learn to love ourselves the right way. Our shame and guilt are thrown far, far away from us, so that we can confidently receive God’s love, knowing there is nothing we have done that still stands between us and God. All is forgiven. But even better, we have God’s power to choose not to sin when temptations come and opportunities arise. We might make mistakes, but our desire to do the loving thing toward God and others will keep growing and maturing.

How do we go from repeatedly apologizing for our sins to a place where we live in God’s gracious victory over sin?

We surrender. We give up. We turn over our choice to be the god of our own lives and to hang on to control. We kneel before the King of the universe and we swear allegiance to Him. And every day, we choose again and again to release our control to God. We plan ahead to obey before He even asks us to do something.

I think of it a lot like getting married. On a person’s wedding day, he stands before his future spouse and promises himself to her and only her from that day forward. It is a one-time commitment that will last as long as both live. This commitment is followed by a renewed commitment each morning to fully give himself to his spouse that day. If the marriage is one of love, he is promising that his love for his spouse will be stronger than any temptation to do something that would hurt her, or to put himself above her.

Can the person make mistakes in the relationship in times of immaturity or lack of wisdom? Does the person need to learn, over many years, ways to more effectively choose and love his spouse? Can the person even one day let that love fade and become unfaithful to that commitment? Yes, all this is true. Marriage takes work and everyone who is married is continually learning how to be better spouses. One has to keep stoking the coals into a flame. But if he views the marriage as a daily choice, and each day he makes the choice to love her before himself to the best of his ability, the marriage can grow, deepen, and should last.

Like a marriage, we can stand before God and make a lifelong commitment to love Him more than anyone or anything else. A lifetime commitment is made in that specific moment. Then, from that day forward, each day we renew that commitment by choosing to love God as He guides us, to get to know Him better, to obey Him in whatever He asks.

Have you made this commitment already? And are you choosing each day to fulfill this commitment you’ve made to live with Jesus as your only Lord? If not, what’s stopping you?

Reflection questions

  1. Have you asked God to forgive your sins, but you continue to live in a repetitive cycle of constantly failing God, rebelling against God or trapped in a sin that you can’t seem to stop? Take a moment to reflect on whether you struggle with sinning against God, yourself, and others.
  2. If you answered yes, are you ready for the freedom and power God offers to give you victory over your sin? If you are, pray now to surrender to God complete and total lordship over your life. Ask Him to cleanse you from your sin, and empower you with such a great love for Him that, out of your love, you would not do anything deliberately to hurt Him, others, or yourself from this day forward.
  3. If you have already taken this step of giving God lordship over your life, take some time to reflect on the freedom and relationship you have enjoyed by living in the Spirit’s power and love each day.
  4. Ask the Holy Spirit if there is an area of your life that He’s been waiting to show you where you might still need to give over lordship to Him.

Prayer

Lord, we recognize that there is no escape for us from the endless cycle of sin, of self-destructive choices, of hurting ourselves, others, and You, unless we surrender our godship over our lives and ask You to take over. We need the power and victory of the Holy Spirit over our compulsion to do the selfish thing, the thing that feels good in the moment, but will always cause harm and suffering, sooner or later.

We submit to You as master of our lives. We pray that You would cultivate in us such a grateful love for You that our love overpowers anything trying to tempt us to hurt You. Fill us with so much love for You that our desire to please You would cast all other pleasures and idols into the shade.

Only You can clean us and make us new. We need You, desperately. Our hope for transformation is in You alone. Please start and continue this transformative work in us right now.

You are so kind and good to want to set us free to live in the power of Your love. Thank You for who You are.

We ask all this in the name of your Son, who became the once and always sacrifice for our sins. Amen.

Conclusion

Isaiah 7:10-14

Psalm 40:5-11

Luke 1:26-38

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