Guilt. How do you get rid of it?
Ever heard of the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza in modern Mexico? I have heard described, in detail, what the men there did long ago for their guilt. Many would take big, long spines off of a plant, and pierce their sex organs and tongues. After all, those were the sources of their greatest sins. They believed they must suffer pain and expel blood, and hopefully this method would atone for their sins. Ouch!
Remember the Shiites in Iraq a few years ago? The news media transmitted pictures of pilgrims whipping themselves in rituals designed to address their guilt.
Some people, who call themselves Christians, believe if they attend church on Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night will have a chance to have their guilt removed.
Religion and philosophy typically address two basic questions:
Why are we here?
What can we do about our guilt?
I find the way the Bible addresses guilt interesting. Years ago, biblical scholar Leon Morris noted that the word “blood” was found 460 times in the Bible: 362 in the Old Testament and 98 in the New Testament.
My count has revealed, in the book of Leviticus, in the NIV, the word occurs 65 times. In chapter 17 alone, it appears 13 times. What gives? Why so much emphasis on blood?
I think there are several reasons. However, in chapter 17, dealing with how you kill animals for sacrifices or for food, you find a nugget of knowledge. In verse 11, the Lord says, “11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.”
That sentence packs a lot of religious teaching and symbolism. The writer of Hebrews plays off that verse when he writes, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22).
Early on, God, through word and visual aids, taught Man: for you to live something must die. Go back to Genesis three. Adam and Eve sin, and what did they try to do? Cover themselves with leaves, the products of their own efforts. But it wasn’t good enough. God provided them with the skins of animals. Innocent blood was shed. For Adam and Eve to live, something had to die. Blood had to be shed.
Thus, begins a pattern throughout scripture. In the Old Testament, it was found in sacrifices such as the burnt offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, the fellowship offering, the Day of Atonement, and even the Passover. As the renowned Levitical scholar Jacob Milgrom wrote, “Blood is the ritual detergent.”
Under the New Covenant, you had a change. Instead of—for you to live, something must die—it became: for you to live, someone must die. The Son of God shed his life’s sustaining liquid on the cross. His blood marked an eternal difference.
By His blood:
1. We are justified. As an old preacher once said, justified means “just as if I'd never sinned.” By the blood of Jesus, that is how we can stand before God—guilt free. Romans 5:9, says, “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!”
2. We are redeemed. Paul wrote, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace” (Eph. 1:7). Do we know what the word “redeemed” means? It means bought back. Jesus uses a form of the word when he said, “the Son of Man came to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). This evokes memories of the sacrifices in Leviticus, where you became aware that your spiritual life was held hostage by death and sin. You paid a ransom, but not in money, rather in blood. In Leviticus, a person was saved by God's grace and blood of goat, but this POINTED toward the blood of Jesus.
We sing a song called "Redeemed how I love to proclaim it." It reminds me of how Paul Lee Tan illustrates the meaning of redemption. He writes that A. J. Gordon was a preacher, who met a young boy carrying a old cage. The cage held some wild birds.
Gordon inquired, “Son, where did you get those birds?”
The boy replied, “I trapped them out in the field.”
What are you going to do with them?”
“I’m going to play with them, and then I guess I’ll just feed them to an old cat we have at home.”
Gordon offered to buy them, and the boy exclaimed, “Mister, you don’t want them, they’re just little old wild birds and can’t sing very well.”
Gordon replied, “I’ll give you $2 for the cage and the birds.”
“Okay, it’s a deal, but you’re making a bad bargain.”
The transaction completed, the boy went away happy with his money. Meanwhile, the following Sunday, Gordon “took the empty cage into the pulpit and used it to illustrate his sermon about Christ’s coming to seek and to save the lost—paying for them with His own precious blood. ‘That boy told me the birds were not songsters,’ said Gordon, ‘but when I released them and they winged their way heavenward, it seemed to me they were singing, ‘Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!’”
“You and I have been held captive to sin, but Christ has purchased our pardon and set us at liberty. When a person has this life-changing experience, he will want to sing, “Redeemed, Redeemed, Redeemed!”
To Be Continued…
Five Things I Think I Think (with a nod to Peter King for this idea)
1. World Cup Fever—Catch it! I am sorry the U. S. lost to Ghana. And I feel bad for my friends from Mexico. However, now I am free to root for Argentina. I still have my World Cup jersey from 1994. I can tell you now, if Argentina wins this thing—the Argentine’s will commission Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber to write a new musical—MARADONA. Later, Madonna will star in a movie version, which the Argentines will not appreciate.
2. I took my kids to see THE KARATE KID Saturday. Actually, it was kind of funny. We were supposed to go to a wedding at 3. The movie started at noon.
At 2:00, we are sitting in the theater and I’m thinking to myself, “This movie is nowhere close to being over.” I googled on my iPhone the movie, and discovered it lasted 2:20”. Now I am thinking, when did the movie begin?
Movies today are like extra time added on to the end of those World Cup soccer games—you never know how much time has been added. In the cinema, you never know how much time has been added because of the previews. Nevertheless, I paid $31.75 for us to watch this movie—we’re seeing the ending, or we are waiting until the movie comes out on free TV.
Finally, at 2:33, the movie ends. Now we are rushing to the pick-up. Haleigh calls Judy, on the phone, because we’ve got to go home to change clothes. The issue is: if we drive home and change, we may not make it back to the wedding. Judy suggests we just meet her at my office. She’ll bring all five changes of clothes.
I drop the kids off at my office and go park. I had given Haleigh my key to open the doors. After parking, I knock on the office complex door, and my daughter, Abby, comes out of my office to open it. As I walk in our complex, I hear my office door close.
“Abby,” I ask. “Where is the key to my office?”
“Inside your office,” she replies.
Not good. The kids had failed to unlock my office door, and none of the kids are inside. Now we are in a time crunch, and we are locked out of my office! Fortunately, I see one of our staff members, Charles Smith, walking across the church parking lot. I flag him down and he opens my office and saves the day.
Judy drops our clothes by at 2:53 P.M. We change our clothes in six minutes and make it to the wedding at 3:00. Crazy. Crazy. Crazy.
3. Incidentally, I really liked THE KARATE KID. It had some mysterious, Chinese remedies I wasn’t thrilled about, as well as a couple of other things I disagreed with, but overall, I enjoyed the movie and liked the message for my kids.
4. Rare military/political statement here: I hope General Petraeus turns out to be the right man for Afghanistan. I think he could prove to be. I don’t care who you are; you cannot say the things General McChrystal said about your Commander-in-Chief and his administration and expect to keep your job. Especially when the journalist following you around is from ROLLING STONE! One of the reasons Harry Truman is so highly thought of today is because he had the courage to sack McArthur. Besides all of that, you’ve got the passages such as Rom 13 and Eph. 6 where, Paul reminds Christians to show their bosses respect.
5. Texas Rangers—who are you? Winning 13 out of the last 14 is pretty good. Save some, though, for the good teams.