Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Meaning of True Freedom

"For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sin? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said 'Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.'" When he said above, "You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings" (these are offered according to the law), then he added, "Behold, I have come to do your will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same scarifies, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us for after saying. "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds." "I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more." Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin" (Hebrews 10:1-18). The most extensive object lesson God ever gave mankind was the Law, especially the animal sacrifices required by the Law. Time after time, animal after animal, year after year, blood offering after blood offering, the sacrificial smoke filled the altar and ascended to heaven. The act of sacrifice was as commonplace under the Law as the sound of music in our churches is today. But actually, it all was "a shadow of the good things to come." None of it ever took away sins! Animal sacrifice was merely an object lesson; it was a picture without words, a sermon without substance. Not until the Lamb of God offered Himself, one sacrifice for all time; was the picture made perfect. First, note the limited freedom under the Law (10:1-4). The ritual of worship was absolutely prescribed under the Law, with no room left for creativity. In spite of its obscurity, the Law was of life-or-death importance; but it had its limitations. It could not make anyone perfect (v.1). It is obvious that if the Law did perfect people, they never would have had to repeat their sacrifices for the cleansing of their sin. The repetition announced that the Law was never permanently effective. It could not make anyone clean (v.2). Again, if the Law had thoroughly cleansed its subjects the would not have needed to keep going back to the priest for sacrificial cleansing. It could not permanently take away sins (v.4). The writer stresses the impossibility of the removal of sins by shedding the blood of goats and bulls. Second, we see the complete freedom we have in Christ (10:5-14). Because the Law could not do for men what was needed, God gave us His Son, who is introduced in v.5 by the word "therefore." Note two contrasts involving Christ. He offered Himself, rather than an animal (vv. 5-10). God was not pleased by the killing of the animals; His pleasure came from the obedience expressed by the sinners who came to the altar for the cleansing of their sins. Note v.9. Through His obedience, Jesus brought an end to the Law and its requirements as they had been known for so long. He didn't dilute the Law or diminish its importance: He took it away. He made one offering, rather than many (vv. 11-14). Once Jesus offered Himself as the enduring sacrifice, His work was done: He didn't keep returning to the cross or to the tomb. He didn't wear out a path between heaven and earth. He sat down at the right hand of God to intercede on our behalf. The question we must ask ourselves is, "Then why do I keep working so hard to earn favor with God?" Every generation of people has tried to do what Christ has already done. We work, struggle, fight, pray, worry, strive, compete, while He sits resting, just as we ourselves should be doing. The text says, "by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" )v.14). We have been perfected. We must resist the legalists who give us lists of things we must and must not do to accrue God's favor. Rather than focus on the things we are not to do, we are to cultivate within ourselves an obedient attitude-the kind modeled for us by our Savior. Third, observe the freedom benefits we have as believers (10:15-18). When you have a sacrifice-once for all, free for all-you have no boredom, meaninglessness, or monotony. Available to each of us each morning is a fresh day of grace in which to live our life. Why? Two reasons emerge from these verses. Sufficient power is now available within us. The sin issue is no longer our primary concern. Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.

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