Did you ever have to stay after school and write on a piece of paper a hundred times “I will not …” Fill in the blank for your misdeed. Your hand would be cramping by the end. A lot of Christians think they have to do something similar when they sin. God doesn’t work that way. He offers forgiveness free of charge because His Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross.
“how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”
In the Old Testament, the people of God had to sacrifice bulls, lambs, and goats for the forgiveness of sins. Christ’s death on the cross was the final sacrifice needed for sin to be removed. His unblemished life became the perfect substitute for our sin, which left a price tag of death upon us. With that forgiveness comes a conscience that is cleansed. You don’t need an animal to be your substitute; Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.
For centuries the church has pushed the idea of penance or paying for your sins. Nowhere in the Bible does it teach that. The grace of God removes your sins. You don’t deserve it, but He gives it to you out of the love of His heart. So many people are chained down by their sins because they don’t think they can do enough good works to make it right. Those good works are dead in God’s eyes. If you confess your sins, you are forgiven.
Serve Out of Gratitude
It is much better to serve God out of our gratitude than our guilt. When we serve out of our guilt, we want to get it over with. When we serve out of our gratitude, we do it from the joy that the Spirit has put there. That joy can only be there if our sins are forgiven, and the Holy Spirit is working in us. God wants us to get past our sins and live in the abundant life of His love.
Each year I have to go to the eye doctor and get an exam. Without my glasses or contacts, I am pretty blind. What makes it difficult is having a stranger look into your eyes with all kinds of machinery. It serves a purpose, but the level of awkwardness goes through the roof. The reason for that is that your eye is a lamp to your soul.
“The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness.”
A Light to Your Soul
The eye is discussed a lot in literature. Many authors write about how the eye is the window to the soul, and you can see into a person’s heart by gazing into their eyes. I’m not sure about that, but your eyes will often give you away when things aren’t right. Jesus backs this up when He tells you that your eyes offer a light into your life. If your life is clean, then you can see clearly, but if there aren’t good things happening, then darkness lingers in parts of your heart.
Scripture tells you over and over to guard your heart. The reason is that Satan can get a foothold there, and sin can start to spread like a cancer. What starts as a simple white lie or an act where no one is hurt eventually becomes a tsunami of sin that takes out whole families. The interesting part is that you can see it in their eyes before it gets to that stage. When someone is caught up in a sinful lifestyle, the guilt inside prevents the person from looking at others in the eye.
Your Eye is a Lamp
The key to a heart right before God is constant maintenance. You are a sinful person, and you need to be about the business of weeding out those roots of sin seeded by temptation. If you let them get out of control, it will cloud out any good going on. If your heart is full of sin, you need to repent and get right with God. Call those sins out by name and ask Jesus to forgive them. When you do this, you will feel the light of Christ rush back in, and it will be as if you are breathing new life.
Have you ever signed a legal document like escrow papers to purchase a house? The stack of paper can be a couple of inches thick. You will have to sign and initial many of those pages as you are made aware of your legal responsibility. Once it is all done and notarized, you are legally bound to the contract. It is a covenant that you have entered into with another party, and if you break it, you could be taken to court. Did you know that God entered into a binding agreement with you when you accepted Jesus as your savior? It’s His New Covenant.
FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS INTO THEIR MINDS, AND I WILL WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS. AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.”
God says “I Will”
The writer of Hebrews is quoting Jeremiah 31 and the promise that God had made to the Israelites when they returned from captivity. This was a new covenant. With the Old Covenant, everything was based on what the Israelites did in response to God’s law. The New Covenant was all based on what God was going to do. God says, “I Will.” This is all His doing, and nothing is dependent on what we do. Because it is a Covenant that He has made, it is unbreakable.
At Salvation, God does a new work in your heart. He gives you the Holy Spirit, who teaches you the things of God. With that comes the ability to know what God is thinking and how He wants you to act. He writes His Word on your heart. It’s like you have His computer code embedded into you and the algorithm set for how to operate.
A Binding Agreement
If God is doing all of this work inside of you, then our best plan of action is to allow Him to do what He needs to do. Rest easy in the thought that you are God’s child, and He is taking care of you. Tell Him He has full reign to make the necessary changes. Trust him as He leads you in the right direction.
During planting season, there are few things more beautiful than perfect plows lines in the fields. The symmetry of row after row of dirt formed so vegetables can be planted gives a sense of order. If a farmer were to take his eyes off what he was doing, his tractor would go off course, and those rows would be ruined. He would have to start all over again and lose precious time. Jesus uses this as a picture for following Him. He wants us to focus forward.
“But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Set Your Sights
Jesus tells this to a man who wants to follow Him after he finishes some business. Sounds logical, but Jesus tells him it’s not. When a farmer is plowing, he is focused straight ahead so that his lines will be straight. If he looks back, his plow will go sideways. The analogy here is that we can’t look to the past while heading forward with Jesus. Our attention and focus need to be on what is ahead, not what was in the past.
Don’t Hold On to the Past
Too many Christians try to keep their old life while living for Jesus. They want to maintain old friendships and habits. The rub is that those friends and habits conflict with what Jesus wants us to do. It may seem unloving to separate from old friends, but they will not push us to be better disciples. They are going to hold us back and drag us back into our old sinful life. You don’t cut ties with them. Instead, try to bring them along with you into your new life.
As a disciple of Jesus, you need to keep our eyes and mind focused on what He has for us. That means eliminating distractions and not turning back to our old ways. The draw will be strong, but we need to resist the temptation. Keep moving forward, and you will find the desires will diminish. What lies ahead is more beneficial.
When you take your car to the mechanic, you always brace for the moment when he calls you with the estimate of repairs. How much will it cost to fix it, and how long will you be without it? The Bible tells you the cost of following Jesus. It requires your whole life, but it is well worth it.
“And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
It’s a Daily Decision
Jesus laid down the gauntlet for being a disciple. If you follow Me, you have to deny yourself, pick up the cross DAILY, and follow My leading. Most people have no clue about the weight or meaning behind those words. Denying yourself is much more than telling yourself, “no.” It’s trading your life, plans, and aspirations for what God’s plans are. It’s saying, “not my will, but Your will be done.”
Identify with Jesus
Christianity can’t be an add-on to your life to make sure you get to Heaven. It has to be the foundation upon which everything else is built. Salvation is a gift, but discipleship costs you everything. Picking up your cross daily means that you have crucified your old life (Gal 2:21), and your life is now in Jesus. You not only identify with Jesus, but sacrifice (the cross) is the dominant feature of your nature.
The Cost of Following Jesus
These words may sound difficult, but Jesus knew that if people aren’t fully committed, they will wilt and fade at the first sign of trouble. To be a disciple means to be deeply rooted in the Word of God and reaching for Heaven. You have committed your life to become more like Jesus. To these people, one day they will hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” The benefits always outweigh the costs.
There are some pretty funny videos on Youtube of athletes left hanging when trying to give a high five. Tom Brady and Josh Hart are two of the best ones to watch. They went to congratulate one of their teammates, but they didn’t see them, and it looks like they were ignored. Josh Hart would always end up high-fiving himself. We all know what it feels like to left out, but I want you to know that if you are faithfully serving the Lord and no one notices or appreciates you, you are not forgotten. Jesus sees you.
“For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.”
It’s Tough Out There
Ministering to people is tough. You have to love people who make it difficult and serve people who are all about themselves. Most of the time, it would be easier to quit, and many people do. The writer of Hebrews wants you to know that you are not forgotten. God sees the love and service that you freely give to the church and community, and He will remember that when you stand before Him.
Discouragement Is Normal
One of the most difficult things about serving is when people lecture you that you do it unto the Lord and not for applause. Most servants I know do it for the right reasons, but it still doesn’t remove the pain from the hurtful words people direct at them. They tell you, “Don’t take it personally,” but it was a personal attack. Don’t diminish the pain but ask the Lord for the strength to go on.
You Are Not Forgotten
You have a great reward waiting for you in heaven. One day you will stand before Him and hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into your reward.” Keep your eye on the finish line and stay the course. Fight the good fight and finish strong. You are not forgotten.