Substitutions will never be sufficient for the real thing
(Read Hebrews 10)
Hebrews 10 was a direct and clear message to Jewish Christians about authenticity. It served as a beacon of light to those people struggling with holding to their new Christian faith rather than obeying Old Testament laws to save them. Year after year they would try to appease God with their animal sacrifices and hedge laws. I have no doubt that God paid notice of their gestures, but they were sadly missing the point. They were missing what Christ had told his followers.
“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”
As God’s perfect son, Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life that we couldn’t live, and died the death meant for us. He died in our place. Try as we do to please others, please ourselves, and please God, our efforts will always be insufficient for God’s true acceptance. How many times have we done something for temporary and immediate pleasure when we know that the joy won’t last? How many times have we put a band-aid on something that required a major overhaul?
“Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
There was nothing wrong with the Old Covenant law. The law gave the Jewish people guidelines. It prepared them for their future king, for their Messiah. The Old Covenant law led to ongoing animal sacrifices as a substitute for their sins. As the writer of Hebrews said, if these sacrifices were sufficient, they wouldn’t have had to repeat them for thousands of years. Substitutions will never be sufficient for the real thing.
This is also true for Christians today. All our attempts at temporary sacrifices to please God ultimately will fail. We can go to church, recite prayers, sing hymns. We can talk the talk, but are we really turning to Christ in our hearts? We just keep repeating our habits over and over again, merely proving the necessity of Christ to sacrifice for us.
If you ever talk with someone who has an addiction problem, they may share that they were looking for some kind of temporary fix (pleasure) for a deeper, more painful problem. They were looking for a substitute for their pain, loneliness, or misery only to discover that nothing manufactured, man-made, or temporary would ever satisfy their needs.
“And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.”
Christ’s sacrifice was a one-and-done solution. Only a savior can die a death sufficient for all our sins. No matter how challenging something may be that stands in front of us, we need to look to Jesus Christ, as the only ONE who is sufficient to stand in our place. Our hopes, our fears, our rituals, our habits, our songs, have never and will never be a substitute for the cross.
- Do you ever follow the rules because it makes you look obedient? Do you do what’s right because people are watching? Are you behaviors based on obligation or desire?
- When something is bothering you, do you sometimes look only to deal with a small insignificant part of it? When you don’t attack the whole, does it ultimately go away?
- The majority of people described as Christians believe they’re going to heaven. Do you? If so, why?
- I’ve almost always followed the rules because my parents made me. I also didn’t like getting punished. How does that behavior stack up against what the writer of Hebrews 10 wrote? I followed my laws because I was supposed to, not because it was in my heart to do so. Think about what you do that’s right and wrong. Do you stay in line because it’s the right thing to do, or are you trying to be a mirror image of Christ? If he is the king of kings, we want to be like him and act like him.
- Are you going to heaven? Are you going because you’re a good person? Think of all the good deeds you’ve done, all the sacrifices you’ve made for others. Now forget them. There is only one reason you’re going to heaven. Heaven is not full of good people, it’s full of forgiven people. Christ is the only chance we have for heaven. Spend this week praying about why you’re going to heaven.
Where else in your life can you live out the teachings of Christ? Look for next week’s Devotion.