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Thankful The Past Is Forgiven

By Bill Whittaker

Hebrews 9:11-14

In November our thoughts turn toward Thanksgiving and the celebration of our many blessings. We tend to express thanksgiving for blessings that we can taste or touch, exalting the temporal rather than the eternal. The problem is ancient, reflected in the book of Hebrews in the context of worship and sacrifice. The writer of Hebrews asks us to look beyond the “shadow” and be thankful for the “good things” found in Jesus Christ. What He accomplished at the cross and in the resurrection has transformed our past, secured our future and empowered our present. Knowing this reality is a continual Thanksgiving feast.

Hebrews often contrasts the Jewish sacrificial system and the work of Jesus. Priests consecrated under the Mosaic law entered the temple, behind the veil into the holy of holies, and sprinkled the blood of a sacrificial lamb on the mercy seat of the ark. The priest prayed for the forgiveness of his sins and the sin of the people. Each year this scene of the Day of Atonement was repeated. The long line of worshippers left temporarily feeling better but their conscience unclean, their lives still powerless to deal with the rule of sin.

It still happens, even in settings where a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant would feel comfortable. The taste of communion temporarily soothes the spirit but the communicant returns to fellowship with friends of the evil one. The offering plate is passed and a gift is made; a son watches, and smiles approvingly at his dad who will the next morning “cook the books” at his firm.

What can wash away my sin?

Christ died once for all. We all wish some things could be done once for all — cleaning the house, paying taxes, losing weight. Many a mother has a “once for all” attitude after an excruciating round of labor in the delivery of her first child; she turns to her beloved husband and declares, “This is it! Once is enough.” Some things are once for all, such as graduation; when the diploma is received the professor will be unable to call them back to complete a paper inadvertently omitted from a syllabus.

Christ’s death for the sins of the world was truly once for all. The magnitude of that event hit harder than hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. A world of humanity, destroyed by sin, has found forgiveness from the Savior. It can’t be found with “the blood of goats and calves” (v.12); Christ is the only adequate solution. “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” (Lewis E. Jones, 1899).

What can make me whole again?

Christ died once for all. He “offered Himself without spot to God” (v.14). Our Lord voluntarily laid his life on the altar of sacrifice. He paid the sin penalty we deserved; he died in our place. A Russian fable tells of a master and his servant on a journey. On the way they were caught in a blinding blizzard, lost their way and did not arrive at their destination before nightfall. The next day a search party found the master frozen, face down in the snow. When they lifted him up, the servant was under him, cold but alive. The master died for the servant; Christ has “put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (9:26). “Naught of good that I have done. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Christ died once for all. John 3:16 describes this unlimited, inclusive work of Christ: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Max Lucado describes Calvary as the vertical bar of holiness intersecting with the horizontal bar of love. Jesus wears a sovereign crown but bears a father’s heart” (And The Angels Were Silent, 30). “This is all my hope and peace, Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” (Bill Whittaker)

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Sermon brief provided by: Bill Whittaker, President of Clear Creek Baptist Bible College in Pineville, KY

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