16You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.18“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. John 15:16-19 (NLT)
Love and hate. Jesus speaks always of LOVE or HATE. You never read a passage in scripture in which Jesus says something like, “If you think you might like me or maybe think that you want to be saved then you perhaps might want to listen to a little of what I have to say. Now I don’t want to offend you, and I’m sorry if I might, but….” NOPE – That’s not my Jesus! Thank God! (I mean it, literally, THANK YOU GOD!) Jesus IS Truth – He lives Truth and He speaks Truth. It is impossible for Him to be or act in any other way than with His immutable attributes – Truth and Grace.
So What of Love – and what of Hate? Well, the short answer is PICK ONE! Wait didn’t I hear this somewhere before? Yes! It was our old friend Joshua who, by the power of Holy Spirit taught his people, “14“So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone. 15But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” But wait now, that’s the Old Testament, that’s not about Jesus… is it?
3“If the high priest sins, bringing guilt upon the entire community, he must give a sin offering for the sin he has committed. He must present to the LORD a young bull with no defects. 4He must bring the bull to the LORD at the entrance of the Tabernacle, lay his hand on the bull’s head, and slaughter it before the LORD. 5The high priest will then take some of the bull’s blood into the Tabernacle, 6dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle it seven times before the LORD in front of the inner curtain of the sanctuary. 7The priest will then put some of the blood on the horns of the altar for fragrant incense that stands in the LORD’s presence inside the Tabernacle. He will pour out the rest of the bull’s blood at the base of the altar for burnt offerings at the entrance of the Tabernacle. 8Then the priest must remove all the fat of the bull to be offered as a sin offering. This includes all the fat around the internal organs, 9the two kidneys and the fat around them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver. He must remove these along with the kidneys, 10just as he does with cattle offered as a peace offering, and burn them on the altar of burnt offerings. 11But he must take whatever is left of the bull—its hide, meat, head, legs, internal organs, and dung— 12and carry it away to a place outside the camp that is ceremonially clean, the place where the ashes are dumped. There, on the ash heap, he will burn it on a wood fire. (Leviticus 4:3-12 NLT)
The nature of redemptive sacrifice is violence. It is violent and harsh and graphic and offensive to our sensibilities. We must understand, however, that sacrifice, as it is measured, must be all of these things – it must be an “eye for an eye” if it is to be offered in redemption of human sin for sin is violent; it is harsh and graphic and offensive. Do we understand, however, can we fathom even, the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice? His treatment was brutal, to be sure. The Messiah was beaten, scourged, tortured and ultimately, literally, hung on a piece of wood with long metal spikes. His body was broken, sacrificed as punishment for us – and the blood flowed.
It is through the blood of Jesus that the remission of our sin, what we call the ‘propitiation’ for our sin, was made. Not the blood of a pigeon; not the blood of a ram; not the blood of a goat or a bull – the blood of the perfect God-man Jesus, who was and is the Christ of God – given as a sacrifice so that not only the punishment of our sin would be satisfied, but the forgiveness of those sin – and future sin – would be brought to fruition. We are saved by the blood of Jesus. We are forgiven and able now to be in the presence of the Most High God. We are Holy, set apart by God, for God.
This is why we come to the altar when we profess our faith and belief in Jesus Christ; and it is why we say that we ‘give our lives’ to Jesus. You see, it is at that time that we do what little we can to return good-for-good and offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to Jesus Christ and His church. As we are taught in Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) 1And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.
3Restore us, O God; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
4How long, Lord God Almighty, will your anger smolder against the prayers of your people?
5You have fed them with the bread of tears; you have made them drink tears by the bowlful.
6You have made us an object of derision to our neighbors, and our enemies mock us.
7Restore us, God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.
These words are from Psalm 80, verses 3 through 7 (NIV) and they are beautiful. It is a heart’s cry to God. It is a heart’s cry for restoration and salvation. It is a heart’s cry for God to step in, step up for His people and make things right.
But is it God’s job to make things right? Is it God’s job, after the decisions that we make create the mayhem that they do, to step in and clean up our mess? Is God’s reason for being to tend to our needs and make straight our paths? I would simply assert that it is not. God’s word teaches us of this relationship that we enter into with our creator – and teaches us that there are decisions to be made and that there are consequences of those decisions. Will we submit to God’s will – or not? Will we trust Him with our lives – or not? Will we be intentional in our relationship with Him – or not? Will we live the life of the redeemed and speak the Truth about the Christ – or not? When we pass from this world, will be go to heaven and spend eternity in the presence of the Almighty – or not?
Powerful decisions with powerful consequences; and it is clear that we are to make them for ourselves. Remember the words from John 3, beginning with verse 17, “For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Jesus, as the Christ, does not stand in judgement; He stands as the Truth. We being judgement upon ourselves when we deny the truth.
Do you believe, as many do, that God exists to serve you? Do you then blame Him for the bad and demand from Him only the good? Do you believe that God has brought calamity upon you – calamity that you do not deserve because well, your YOU!? Do you believe that it is His job to serve you – and save you? If so, you probably agree with the psalmist above and have prayed many prayers for God to stop being mean and do the right thing for once.
Or…have you submitted to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? Do you simply pray, “Here I am, Lord. Thy will be done.”
Pastor Brian is the senior pastor of Churchtown Church of God and regularly shares his thoughts & insight here - he invites you to join in the discussion of life & faith!