Please Forgive Me?
I want to share what I have been learning these past few days from the book of Leviticus. Now, don't turn away- yes, Leviticus!
The first part of Leviticus starts out with God giving instructions for the different types of sacrifices and the specifics regarding how to perform those sacrifices- these regulations can seem redundant as we are reading through the same words/instruction over and over again. HOWEVER- the deeper message is that all these sacrifices indicate the promise of the perfect sacrifice- Jesus- who would make FULL atonement for all sins, at all times, and for all people. As I read these instructions from the Lord specifically regarding the guilt and sin offerings in Leviticus chapters 4-7, I become overwhelmed with the grave task the people of Israel had to be aware of their sin and to then be responsible for it in bringing the sacrifice and having the priest perform the sacrifice, etcetera. I find, within myself, a stark contrast to the Israelites when it comes to owning up to my own sins, and then confessing them before God.
How different our lives would be if we truly HAD to take a lamb (or other particular animal), without blemish, to the priest; have the priest kill it, spread its blood in particular ways; place my hands on the sacrifice and declare the sin which I was confessing so that this animal could atone for me; have the priest burn it (no fat was to remain and it was to be cut in particular ways also); then, all the ashes (depending on the type of sacrifice) were to be disposed of in particular ways; and, then, the priest would need to cleanse himself, his clothing, the altar, the instruments used, etcetera, to ensure no remnant of the sacrifice remained. Whew. I get overwhelmed just contemplating the sheer enormity of that task- for ONE SIN! And, the people of Israel had no Bible to help them keep everything straight- this indicates to me how diligently aware they had to be of God and His law. (And, in stark contrast again- how woefully unaware I can be of my sin when I HAVE the Bible right in front of me!)
In reading through these chapters and studying commentary on them, I observed several things which both convicted and encouraged me.
First, I want to note that no sacrifice for sin was overlooked. Whoever came to offer the sacrifice to God (in obedience to the commands) was forgiven. All who came were sinners, and all were forgiven. What a blessed thought for us today- in the midst of all this turmoil over whose lives matter, we find continually in Scripture that all lives matter. And, all those who come to God in repentance for their sins will be forgiven. In Leviticus, it focuses on rich versus poor; in the New Testament, Paul writes about how there are neither Jew nor Greek, slave or free- but all are the same in Christ! So, it is today- WHOEVER comes to God in repentance and begs for His mercy will be forgiven.
This brings me to the second observation. In reading about these sacrifices, I am so incredibly overwhelmed by the gift of Jesus. As we read of the sins in the Bible, as we observe the sin and evil in our world- and even in our own hearts- we should hold within us a great hatred for evil, for the Devil and his schemes and wiles. In the same heart and mind, we must also VALUE the Savior. Do you value your salvation? Do you regularly stand in awe and wonder of the fact that Jesus died for you? Do you hate sin? How often do you confess your sins and ask God for forgiveness, grace, and help? Or, have you become "fine" with where you are living life, brushing the little sins under the rug, and doing the outward requirements of following Christ without regard to the breach you have placed between yourself and God? Matthew Henry writes, "For us to err [sin] with the Bible in our hands is the effect of pride, sloth, and carelessness. We need to use frequent self-examination with serious study of the scriptures and earnest prayer for the convincing influences of the Holy Spirit, that we may detect our sins of ignorance, repent, and obtain forgiveness through the blood of Christ!" We still sin, dear ones. Every. single. day. Are you aware? On guard? Examining your life? Oh, how we need to be aware of Satan's attacks and schemes against us- this shows respect and value to the Savior who sacrificed all for us!
Thirdly, I observed that the sins the people of Israel came to confess were specifically stated. No general, "I sinned"- no, the offender would declare what sin he had committed! So it MUST be with us- no generalities like, "Well, I think I had a bad thought today or said something I should not have. Please forgive me. Thanks." No. Our sins are specific- and the only way to be armed for future attacks is to KNOW what sins and temptations are your particular downfall. For example, I have shared some about my personal testimony- I can say now that I struggle with the sins of control, pride, being judgmental/comparing to others, and anger. For a long time, I just kind of coasted as far as confessing sin. I honestly didn't even really think about it that much. I would brush the Spirit's promptings aside when I had a bad attitude when things didn't go my way. I would ignore his prodding when I was proud of how "I was better than so-and-so". I ignored him when I prompted to confess my judgmental attitude toward a person or situation. Instead, I would make excuses or come up with some general statement about areas of struggle and sin. This greatly hindered my ability to serve God- because I would not confess sin specifically, I was totally unaware of the other ways the devil was deceiving me. This led me to a place I never want to be again in my relationship with God and others. Own your sin, dear ones. Confess, forsake, and BE ON GUARD! Satan knows each of our weaknesses and will use them to his advantage alone. What specific sins are your struggle? Do you know? You need to know so God can then use your service for His honor.
Fourthly, I noted (with joy!) that when Christ came to be sin for us, He obtained for us pardon for ALL our sins and failings. He BECAME sin for us- the perfect Lamb of God became sin. In Leviticus. the lamb would atone for the sin as far as appeasing the wrath of God by its death. But, those sacrifices were only a shadow of Christ- for, those sacrifices could not actually become or even really TAKE the sin. Rather, they were merely a representation. But, when Christ died- HE BECAME SIN. This changes the game for us because not only are we pardoned from our sin, but we also, by His grace, have the power to overcome sin. We won't have to keep struggling with the same things over and over and offering sacrifices for the same thing over and over. In Romans 8:3-4 we read, "For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." Grasp this truth, dear ones! Because Jesus became sin for us, and because he rose from the dead and has given us His Spirit, we HAVE POWER to overcome sin! Hallelujah! Oh, I am just so excited and overwhelmed by all of this- I hope you all are feeling the fervor with which I am attempting to write these truths.
As Christians, it's hard sometimes for us to look at others who do not know Jesus because we can become easily frustrated with how they seem to have life all together- and they don't even know Christ! Let me tell you- the reason they seem to have it all together is because Satan isn't necessarily worried about tripping those people up- no, they're already "set" as far as he is concerned. What Satan overwhelmingly focuses on is getting as many believers to sin, to be hypocritical, to walk away from their faith, and to cause unbelievers to want "no part" of Christianity. That's his gig. To get as many people into hell as he can. To get as many Christians as possible to not be effective for Christ. THAT'S why we struggle with depression, anger, anxiety, fear, pride, control, jealousy, gossip, and so much more. Oh, but how we CAN make a difference when we humbly admit we don't really have it all together- but we know the one who does! And, He alone can use us as we humbly submit to Him and ask Him to change us. And confession of sin directly affects our ability and effectiveness to serve Him. Without the Spirit's work (when we quench Him by continually suppressing His prompting), we will be ineffective followers of Jesus. Oh, how devastating to claim that as you go to lay crowns at the feet of your Sacrificial Lamb!
There is peace in confession of sin. Restoration. Hope. Confess to Jesus now those things that are keeping you from a right relationship with Him. Listen to Him. Ask Him to take your life and use you. Put on your armor and be prepared for more attacks from the devil. "Behold and wonder at Christ's love... in that He was content to be made a sin-offering for [YOU and me]." (Matthew Henry)
I have included the link to a song called, "Please, Forgive Me". This song is sung by Michael English- who has a powerful testimony of the grace of God and the power of forgiveness. You can sense the power and humility in his voice as he sings these words from his heart- I sing this song often- particularly as I am struggling with a certain sin that day or did something I should not have. Praise God for His forgiveness- and by His grace, we will press on to make Him known and to be effective followers of Him- for HIS GLORY!