Free From Sin, Free To Serve!
By Rich Carmicheal
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 9:1 – 10:14
"How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:14).
Unfortunately, you and I know all to well the truth that "…all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). We know from firsthand experience that the consequences of sin are terrible and reach into every area of our lives. We know the reality of the prophet Isaiah’s declaration: "…your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you…" (Isa. 59:2). Like David, we know that sin can rob one of joy and gladness, and threaten to cause the Lord to withdraw His Spirit from us (Psalm 51:1-12). We know what it means to have a guilty conscience because of sin (Heb. 10:22). And we know that "the wages of sin is death..." (Rom. 6:23).
In light of all this, how much greater can our rejoicing be that Jesus has come to save His people from their sins! (Matt. 1:21). Hopefully, you have discovered the forgiveness and freedom from sin that come through Him. If not, be assured that such forgiveness and freedom is possible. If you are struggling with sin, I hope and pray the Lord will use this message to help you enter into the freedom that comes through the blood of Christ. If, on the other hand, you are already walking and serving in the freedom of Christ, I hope the following words will help renew your appreciation for all that He has done and is doing for you.
The Remedy for Sin
Because of the depth of the impact of sin, forgiveness and freedom from sin come only at a great price, namely, blood. The writer of Hebrews points out that "…the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Heb. 9:22). The fact that blood is required actually means that life is required. The Lord states in Leviticus 17:11, "…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." In other words, our sins are atoned for, or satisfaction is made for our sins, only through the shedding of blood, the giving of life.
Under the Old Covenant, the blood shed was the blood of animals such as sheep, goats and bulls. The Lord established an elaborate system of sacrifices in order that the people’s sins could be covered and forgiven. At the tabernacle (and later the temple), regular sacrifices were offered daily, weekly, monthly and annually. In addition, many other sacrifices were offered to cover specific sins the people had committed.
The Day of Atonement
The most important day of sacrifice each year was the Day of Atonement. On this day (and only on this day), the high priest (and only the high priest) was allowed by the Lord to enter into the Most Holy Place in the tabernacle to make atonement for the people’s sins. The Most Holy Place, also known as the Holy of Holies, was a most sacred room because God’s presence was there. The room contained the ark of the covenant, and on the ark was the atonement cover, where atonement was made (Exod. 26:34; Heb. 9:3-5).
The events of the Day of Atonement are described in detail in Leviticus 16. The high priest had an elaborate ritual to go through during this day, including the wearing of special garments. He began by sacrificing a young bull as a sin offering to make atonement for his sins and the sins of his household. He then took a censer full of coals from the altar and put incense in the fire before the Lord to conceal the atonement cover in the Most Holy Place. He then sprinkled some of the bull’s blood on the front of the atonement cover.
Next he slaughtered a goat for the sin offering of the people, and took its blood into the Most Holy Place and sprinkled its blood onto the atonement cover as he had done with the bull’s blood. In doing so he was making atonement for the sins of the people, for their uncleanness and rebellion. He did the same for the Tent of Meeting, then he went out to the altar and made atonement for it, cleansing it and consecrating it from the uncleanness of the Israelites. This he did by sprinkling some of the bull’s blood and the goat’s blood onto it.
Then the high priest laid his hands on the head of a live goat and confessed over it all the sins of the people, putting the sins on the goat’s head. This goat was then sent away into the desert and released, carrying on itself all the sins of the people.
The high priest then took off the linen garments, bathed and put on his regular garments. Then he sacrificed a burnt offering for himself and a burnt offering for the people. The bull and the goat sacrificed for the sin offerings, whose blood was taken into the Most Holy Place, were then taken outside the camp and burned.
Leviticus 16:30-34 stresses the significance of this day: "…on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins…. This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites."
The Insufficiency of Animal Sacrifices
Although the Lord was gracious to provide cleansing of sins on this day, and also to provide cleansing and forgiveness through many other sacrifices offered at various times, these sacrifices were unable to deal with the deeper issues of the people’s sins. As the writer of Hebrews points out, the law "…can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, 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, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb. 10:1-4). So while the sacrifices had some cleansing value, they also served to remind the people year after year of their sin and guilt.
While the blood of an innocent animal is precious to the Lord, the blood of an animal, or even countless animals, is not sufficient to cover the sin of man. The only way that man’s sin can be sufficiently covered is by the blood of a man. And such blood cannot be the blood of just any man, but must be the blood of an innocent man. After all, sin-stained blood cannot completely cleanse another person’s sin. Only if a sinless man, a man with completely innocent blood, offered his blood – his life – could another man’s sin be completely cleansed and forgiven. In other words, one innocent man giving his life could adequately atone for another man’s life. Such a price is sufficient from God’s perspective to cleanse and forgive sin.
The Sufficiency of Christ’s Blood
Man’s dilemma, however, was that all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), that is, until God sent His only Son into the world to share in our humanity. He was made like us "in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people" (Heb. 2:17). He was "tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin" (Heb. 4:15). He was (and is) "holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners…" (Heb. 7:26). In Him there is no sin (1 John 3:5).
When Christ gave His life on the Cross, when He shed His blood, He did so to make atonement for our sins. He was at the same time the faithful high priest and the sacrifice. As high priest He entered the Most Holy Place once for all (Heb. 9:12), not in the man-made tabernacle or temple, but "He entered heaven itself, to appear for us in God’s presence" (Heb. 9:11,24). "He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but He entered…by His own blood" (Heb. 9:12). And if the blood of goats and bulls can sanctify a person so that he/she is outwardly clean, "how much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Heb. 9:14).
The blood of our Savior is precious and powerful. His blood is able to cleanse us and free us through and through. What we could never do for ourselves, He has done for us. Consider some of the wonderful truths about His blood:
His blood is "poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matt. 26:28).
We have "redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins…" (Eph. 1:7).
Those "who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ" (Eph. 2:13).
We have peace with God through His blood, shed on the cross (Col. 1:20).
He opened the way into God’s presence and "we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus" (Heb. 10:19).
His blood is holy and sanctifies (Heb. 10:29; 13:12).
We are redeemed "with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Pet. 1:19).
He is God’s Son, and His blood "purifies us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
He "loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood" (Rev. 1:5).
He was slain and with His blood He purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation (Rev. 5:9).
The Benefits of Christ’s Sacrifice
The prophet Isaiah describes Christ’s sacrifice this way: "Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.…He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors" (Isa. 53:4-6,12).
Friend, through the blood of Christ, there is forgiveness of sin, cleansing from sin, and freedom from sin. We can rejoice in all that He has done for us. We can put our faith in His blood (Rom. 3:25). He has taken away our sins and set us free from the power of sin: "No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning" (1 John 3:6). "But," as the Apostle John writes, "if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:1-2). "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
So in Christ we are no longer under condemnation, "for what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering" (Rom. 8:3). The price has been paid. Atonement has been made. We are sprinkled by the blood of Christ (1 Pet. 1:2), and through faith in His blood we are cleansed from our sin and set free to serve the living God!
I encourage you to take to heart all that the Lord’s Word reveals about the sacrifice that Christ has made for you, and the wonderful benefits that come into your life through His blood. Fix your eyes on Him and His sacrifice, and "…throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and…run with perseverance the race marked out for [you]" (Heb. 12:1-2).
Last fall I visited with a young man who had recently been saved from a hard life of sin. His testimony was filled with great appreciation for the new life, fellowship and joy he was experiencing in Christ. At one point in the conversation he commented, "For the first time in my life I feel like I am really me." I believe this was his way of describing the glorious freedom he has found in Christ – freedom from sin, and freedom to live a new life in Christ, a life of love and service. In other words, he is set free to be the man that God has created and called him to be. What is true for him, is true for all who place their faith in Christ and the merit of His blood: "...if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).