The Sinner’s Prayer and the Rewards of Love

Does God give out white, red and blue ribbons?  Or, does everyone in heaven get the same orange “Participant” ribbon?  We all know that Jesus gets the big purple “Best of the Show” ribbon, but what about the rest of us?

He that cometh to God must believe that he is,
and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:6  

Why does it say “diligently”?  An honest Sinner’s Prayer will bring anyone under the atoning blood of Jesus.  Is that reward enough? Yes, if all you want is “fire insurance.”  An honest sinner’s prayer requires honesty, but not necessarily diligence.  Are there rewards beyond a welcome at the Pearly Gate?

Let’s talk about love.

The weight of guilt suddenly rolls off your back.  Your soul is flooded with peace, relief.  Joy bubbles up from deep within overflowing on your face and upon everyone around you.  That honest sinner’s prayer is just the beginning.  Your heart glows for the One who set you free.  He is the One who gives you this flood of peace and overflowing joy.  You never want to leave Him.  You never want to separate from this experience.  Who is doing this for you?  Jesus, and you love Him because He loves you.

It is the honest sinner’s prayer that starts this wonderful experience of relief from the weight of guilt on your back.

An opportunity appears for some self-advantage.  It requires nudging past someone else.  You tell yourself the advantage is worth it.  You deserve it more than Smithy.  You make your move, and Smithy loses.

You barely notice the dry breeze that wafts across your face.  The excitement of your advantage covers the missing bubbles of joy.  Slowly, your back is feeling heavier.  It’s harder to look up.

One day you remember your overflowing joy and wonder what happened.

Think about it.  Can you remember the last time you experienced that peace, that relief?  The weight came back to your back.

How can you return to your first love?  You will find Him in the same place you found Him before, bubbling up from an honest sinner’s prayer.

The weight of guilt on your back is a tool.  It functions the same as the nerves in your finger that feel the heat of a stove and cause you to jump back.  You can suppress the guilt, ignore it, tell yourself that Jesus has carried your guiltiness, that God doesn’t look upon your guilt because He accepts Jesus in your stead.

Yeah, you can shoot Novocain into your finger too.  Then you won’t feel the hot burner on the stove.  You can hold your finger on the burner all day long, and you won’t feel the flesh burning off down to the bone.  Is that  a good thing?  Let’s not feel the pain!

Guilt is a tool.  It weighs down our backs until we return to God in honest repentance.  God’s forgiveness is not Novocain to numb our conscience from the pain of guilt.  God’s forgiveness wipes the soul clean, really clean.  There is no guilt in a clean soul.

That’s what you experienced the first time.  And you can have it again.

Now, about those rewards…

Jesus answered and said unto him,
If a man love me, he will keep my words.

John 14:23  

God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  God rewards our diligence.  A diligent student will turn in all his homework assignments on time and study before a test.  A diligent athlete will show up at every practice, never be late for a game, and work out to increase muscle strength.  We know what diligence is.

What does diligently seeking God look like?  Like the student, we will do the homework assignments of keeping His words.  We will study the scriptures for our tests and trials.  Like the athlete, we will show up for practice by assembling with like-minded believers.  We will not be absent when someone needs our help.  We will work out with practical applications of our faith.

Does this description of diligence seem worthy of a reward?  It’s not really the doing that brings the reward.  It’s the love, the love that lays its life down for a friend.

Greater love hath no man than this,
that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13  

The thing is, that unless we practice our faith diligently, when the test comes, we will choose self-advantage over laying down our lives every time.

Jesus laid down His life for us.  We are called to lay down our lives for others.  Jesus has a name above every name.  He alone gets the purple ribbon.  As we follow Him diligently, we will receive our reward.  Yes, He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  God rewards our love.

He loves us.  Will we love Him?

Hereby perceive we the love of God,
because he laid down his life for us:
and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

1 John 3:16  

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Jesus the Sin Offering and the Priest

Part of this post is an excerpt from my book He Who Bleeds available on amazon.com

Is God angry, raging and vengeful? Animal sacrifice? What a barbaric custom!  Gruesome, even cruel.  No wonder many Christian theologians separate the angry God of the Old Testament from the loving God of the New Testament.   

Who is Who?

There is a gospel in the Old Testament.  Jesus opened the Old Testament scriptures to the disciples on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection.

Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.  Luke 24:27

What is animal sacrifice?  I mean, what is it all about?   I know it is representative, but who is who?  I mean, who is the animal representing?  Maybe he is representing me, and I should die for my sin, but the innocent animal dies in my place so God can forgive me.  Is this really what is going on?

What if, in the gospel according to the First Covenant, the sacrificial animal takes the representative role of the victim of that sin?  To find the answer we must look into the ceremony of Atonement.

Atonement is a Legal Term

The Hebrew word in the Strong’s concordance is #3722 kaphar[1].  An example of kaphar as a legal term is in Isaiah 28:18 “your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand;” A covenant is a legally binding agreement, like a contract.  Disannulment  brings the contract to a legal end.  Disannulment frees the signers from further contract liability.  Disannulment is atonement, kaphar.

Atonement as referred to in Mosaic Law is the waiving of the required legal punishment.  Sins for which atonement is made are covered.  They are covered from the punishment of the law.  The process of atonement does not negate the need for repentance and restitution.  On the contrary, confession, repentance and making restitution are necessary steps to atonement[2].  According to Leviticus, after these first steps had been accomplished, then the priest shall make an atonement for him.

The Priest is the Acting Intercessor

How did the priest make an atonement for the sinner?  What did the priest do?  

In a case where the sinner confesses and repents to the victim, as long as the victim is satisfied with the repentance, they may declare peace with one another, and the incident is over. Like Jesus said in Matthew 5:25,  Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him.  There is no need for the law to step in and provide an intercessor.   But what if the sinner repents, and still the victim refuses to make peace?  Then there is need for the law to provide an intercessor.  The intercessor acts in the place of the defrauded victim and makes an atonement for the repentant sinner.   

The earthly pattern that God gave Moses for atonement had two parts.  These were two actors, so to speak, in this earthly pre-enactment of the necessary action in the heavens.  The sacrificial animal and the priest both represent the victim of the sin.  The animal loses his life as the victim who has been defrauded of a portion of his life.  The priest, in the place of the victim, makes atonement, in other words, waives the charges against the sinner. 

            Ceremonially, two actors were needed because the animal could lay down his life, but could not intelligently waive the charges.  The priest could waive the charges, but could not die or suffer equal defraudment for every sin he atoned.  So, the priest was required to eat the sin offering[3] to make himself one with the animal who was taking on the position of the victim.  It was imperative upon the priest that he eat the sin offering, and only the priest who offered the sacrifice was allowed to eat it. 

Because the priest representatively becomes the victim of my sin, he has the right to press charges against me or to waive the charges.  

What did he do?  The priest waived the charges in the stead of the victim and atonement was made.

            Jesus was able to be both sin offering and priest.  Jesus was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities[4].  He accepted the weight of pain and grief caused by every sin ever committed bearing it in his own body on the cross.  He is the Victim of all our sin, and He could choose to press charges or to waive the charges against us.  Thank God, he chose to intercede in the proceedings that were against us making atonement for our sins, not pressing the charges.  Only the victim or one who legally stands in the victim’s stead can do that.  Jesus is the True Victim who holds the right to forgive every sin; and he is our High Priest who “ever liveth to make intercession for us”.[5] 

Let’s go back to where we started.  Is this a barbaric picture of animal sacrifice?  Gruesome, even cruel?  Maybe; but who is cruel, God? or the sinner? 

Sin is cruel, and Jesus came to take away sin.

Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
John 1:29  

[1] 3722  kaphar {kaw-far’} From Strong’s Concordance
Meaning:  1) to cover, purge, make an atonement, make reconciliation, cover over with pitch 1a) to coat or cover with pitch  1b1) to cover over, pacify, propitiate 1b2) to cover over, atone for sin, make atonement for 1b3) to cover over, atone for sin and persons by legal rites 1c1) to be covered over 1c2) to make atonement for 1d) to be covered
Origin:  a primitive root
Usage:  AV – atonement 71, purge 7, reconciliation 4, reconcile 3, forgive 3, purge away 2, pacify 2, atonement…made 2, merciful 2, cleansed 1, disannulled 1, appease 1, put off 1, pardon 1, pitch 1; 102

[2] Leviticus 6:4-7  Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found,  5 Or all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering.  6 And he shall bring his trespass offering unto the LORD, a ram without blemish out of the flock, with thy estimation, for a trespass offering, unto the priest:  7 And the priest shall make an atonement for him before the LORD: and it shall be forgiven him for any thing of all that he hath done in trespassing therein.

[3] Leviticus 6:26  The priest that offereth it for sin shall eat it: in the holy place shall it be eaten, in the court of the tabernacle of the congregation.

[4] Hebrews 4:15  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

[5] Hebrews 7:25  Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Passing the Inheritance to Little Brothers

Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father which art in heaven…” 

God is not only Jesus’ father; He is our father also.  He is Father in many ways.  As the Creator, He is the father of all His creation.   He is the father to all humankind because He created man in His own image, as it says “male and female created he them.”  He is our father because of creation, and in that sense we are his sons.   He is the father of Jesus Christ because Jesus Christ is the only begotten son of God. Now we are getting to the point.  A father gives his inheritance to his children. The inheritance of the Creator is everything that the creator owns, and God is the estate owner of all heaven and earth.  God has given His inheritance to His Firstborn, Jesus Christ.  Jesus by inheritance is the owner all things.

 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth… Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, … And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. … No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him. … Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.  … And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.  … Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: …  Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.  … The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,  … He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son.
 The above quotes are found in order as follows: Genesis 1:1, Exodus 20:11, Genesis 1:31, John 1:18, Hebrews 1:4, Hebrews 9:15, Matthew 25:34, Colossians 3:24, Ephesians 1:18, Revelation 21:7                 

Estate Owners

What happens when an estate owner dies? The executor reads the will and testament of the one who died and must remit the inheritance to the heirs.  Before his death, the estate owner owns all things.  The heirs may not take their inheritance until the death of the owner.  Death is required before the inheritance may be disseminated.

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him. Matthew 17:5 

Jesus is the only begotten son of Father God.  Twice during his life on earth God said, This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.[1] Jesus was the fully matured son, the son who was ready to take over his father’s business.  He owned and had authority over all the estate of God the Father. Because Jesus was the True Firstborn, the only full heir of the Father under the First Covenant, at his death he had the authority to bequeath that same inheritance to his many brethren[2] under his own will and testament, the New Covenant[3].

 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal  inheritance.  For where a testament [a will] is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament [a will] is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Hebrews 9:15-17

Jesus is the Testator, the Estate Owner, of the Second Covenant who had to die as the son over his own house[4] to bequeath the eternal inheritance to His many brethren. In His death as the Testator of the Second Testament, he bequeathed the promise of eternal inheritance to all who would come to God by him.

 Beloved now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.   1 John 3:23  

He is the firstborn of many brethren,[5] and this is the inheritance bought for us by redemption through His blood.[6]

[1] Matthew 3:17; Matthew 17:5
[2] Romans 8:29  For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
[3] Hebrews 8:7  For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.
[4] Heb.3:6
[5] Romans 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
[6] Colossians 1:14  In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

Did God Turn His Back on Jesus?

What was going on in Heaven while Jesus was on the cross?

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. KJV

I see the torn form of our Savior hanging near breathless and contorted crying out, “My God! My God!  Why have you forsaken me?”

Did God turn His back on Jesus as he was hanging on the cross?
Answer: God so loved the world.

God loved the world.  …So what was God doing while Jesus groaned in agony alone.

In John 5:19, Jesus told his disciples, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. “ NKJV

God did not turn His back.  God watched and waited.  God groaned in Heaven to forgive us.  He loved the world.  Jesus labored in his grief and suffering until his suffering reached the height of God’s suffering for all mankind, all His created children.  When the suffering of the Only Begotten Son equaled the suffering of His Father, then Father God called the question, “What say you, Jesus?  What say you?”

-They aren’t worth it!  They will always hurt us and each other!  They hate, steal, murder!-

No, Jesus answers God’s question with,

“Father, forgive them!”

The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do.  Jesus saw the aching heart of Father God.  He chose to be one in His pain.  Jesus forgave the men who drove the nails into his hands, the ones who had lied about him in court, Peter who had denied him three times, his disciples who ran away when soldiers came to arrest Jesus.  He forgives all of us who have betrayed him over and over again.

Jesus does what he sees the Father doing.

Mark 2:3-10-11  “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the paralytic– I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”

 

The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus

Detail of one of the stones with the "Ten...

Detail of one of the stones with the “Ten Commandments” on close to Buckland in the Moor on Dartmoor in Devon. See Buckland in the Moor for more information. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 Are the commandments of God valid for Christians today?
What exactly is meant by “the commandments of God”?

Matthew 5:17-19   Jesus, from The Sermon on the Mount

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:
I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass,
one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law,
till all be fulfilled.
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments,
and shall teach men so,
he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven:
but whosoever shall do and teach them,
the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,
and cometh down from the Father of lights,
with whom is no variableness
,
neither shadow of turning.
James 1:17

Our God is not a chameleon changing his nature to suit his purposes. He calls himself I Am That I Am, Yahweh, the Ever Existing One.   He is from everlasting to everlasting.   He has always been and he will always be.   He doesn’t vary.  That’s something we can count on.

For I am the LORD, I change not;
therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances,
and have not kept them.
Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.
But ye said, Wherein shall we return?
Malachi 3:6-7

 Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD…
Ye have said,” It is vain to serve God:
and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance
,
and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts?”
Malachi 3:13-14

In Malachi 4, God says that before the great and dreadful day he will send Elijah to turn the hearts of the children to the fathers and the fathers to the children.  Who was the prophet Elijah and what did he do?  He rebuked the people for Baal worship and tried to get them to serve Yahweh again.  In what way did Malachi say the people were to serve God?

Remember ye the law of Moses
which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel,
with the statutes and judgments.
Malachi 4:4

Will the spirit of Elijah, of whom Malachi prophesied, come again and do differently than the first Elijah?

Continuing in the train of thought that God doesn’t change, let’s look at the account of Stephen’s trial.  In his defense statement, Stephen accused the ruling Jews of not keeping God’s law.  We are told that false witnesses were set up against him.  The false witnesses are quoted saying, For we have heard him say that Jesus of Nazareth shall… change the customs which Moses delivered us. (Acts 6:14)  Were they telling the truth?  Weren’t they false witnesses?  Had Stephen preached against the laws of God given by Moses?  Stephen himself gives the answer.

Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears,
ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
…Who have received the law by the disposition of angels,
and have not kept it.
Acts 7:51-53

Sin, the Apostle John said, is the transgression of the law.

Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law;
for sin is the transgression of the law.
I John 3:4

John even clarifies that he is not writing about something new, but about that which has been from the beginning.

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you,
but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning.
I John 2:7

Romans chapters 6, 7 and 8 have been some of the scriptures most used to preach that Christians need  not keep the law of God.  In reading these chapters we can see that Paul is discussing different sets of laws.  Romans 7:22, 23 show two sets of laws.

For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:


But I see another law in my members,
warring against the law of my mind,
and bringing me into captivity to
the law of sin which is in my members.
Romans 7:22-23

Paul says that he serves the law of God with his mind, so the law of his mind seems to be the law of God which he sets his mind to serve.  There is one more law that Paul mentions in chapter 8: 2, “…the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus”.    Therefore, the three sets of laws Paul discusses in depth are:

1.  The Law of Sin and Death, which is summed up in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death”.

2.  The Law of God as a moral code, which we see in the Ten Commandments.

3.  The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus, which is new life in Him through his resurrection from the dead.

God’s law brings the knowledge of sin.

The commandment that was ordained to life,
I found to be unto death.
For sin, taking occasion by the commandment,
deceived me and by it slew me.
Rom. 7:10, 11

Every man is tempted when he is drawn away
of his own lust and enticed.
Then when lust hath conceived,
it bringeth forth sin,
and sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.”
James 1:14-15

There is no way around it.  Sin brings death.  We may be forgiven, but when we sin again, the fatal infection re-enters.  Call it wages or penalty or the result of sin; the fact is that under any circumstances sin causes death.

O wretched man that I am!
who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Romans 7:24

I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God;
but with the flesh the law of sin.
Romans 7:25

There is therefore now no condemnation
to them which are in Christ Jesus,
who walk not after the flesh,
but after the Spirit.
Romans 8:1

Condemnation is for those who walk in the flesh as Paul had just said in 7:25, “with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”  What is sin?  “Sin is the transgression of the law.”

The law of God revealed to Moses had one weakness.  It could never purge our conscience from sin.

For the law having a shadow of good things to come,
and not the very image of the things,
can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually
make the comers thereunto perfect.
For then would they not have ceased to be offered?
Because that the worshippers once purged
should have had no more conscience of sins.
Hebrews 10:1-2

The sacrifices, the priesthood, and the tabernacle were a shadow, a pattern, of what God had yet to reveal.

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
Hebrews 10:4

Jesus came and died as the ultimate sacrifice for sin, That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)  Paul said, For I delight in the law of God after the inward man (Romans 7:22)   But he said that if he walked in the flesh he served the law of sin.

The carnal mind is enmity against God:
for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
Romans 8:7-8

We see that the fleshly mind cannot be subject to the law of God, but in Jesus Christ we can fulfill the purpose of the law of God by His Spirit.  Being forgiven, we are no longer under the condemnation of the law.  Now we are free by God’s Spirit to fulfill the righteousness of the law.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus
hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
For what the law could not do,
in that it was weak through the flesh,
God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin,
condemned sin in the flesh:
that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us
,
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit
.
Romans 8:2-4

May we conclude then, that we may continue to live a sinful life once we have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus? The Apostle gives the answer:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
God forbid! How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Romans 6:1-2

The Law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus gives us the grace to live free of sin today.  Jesus paid the price to offer you the free gift of His grace to live as he lived.  This is the power of the new testament in His blood.  We have no excuses to dwell in sin.  This is the finished work of Jesus Christ.  He has bequeathed to us all of his inheritance in the Father.

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
Romans 8:29

For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things,
in bringing many sons unto glory,
to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one:
for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren.
Hebrews 2:10-11

Yet, He has made provision for us, if we fall.
If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1 John 1:9

God’s purpose is to have sons in His image.  That is the very reason He created Adam in the first place.
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God created he him;
male and female created he them.
Genesis 1:27

Adam fell from the image in which he was created, but God promised that He would send a deliverer.

And I will put enmity between thee [the serpent] and the woman,
and between thy seed and her seed;
it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
Genesis 3:15

Jesus Christ is the Seed of the Woman who has bruised the head of the serpent and wrenched out of his hands the dominion of the earth that he stole from Adam.  In Jesus Christ, by the Law of the Spirit of life, we have now the ability to gain victory over sin.  We are not bound to sin a little every day.  This is the Gospel, the good news, of Jesus Christ.

Our God is consistent from creation to the fullness of His heavenly kingdom.  His intent has always been the same, though His revelation to us is ever expanding.  May God grant us light to see all that He has revealed of Himself in the past, so we may be able to grasp all that He will reveal to us in the future.

That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory,
to …be able to comprehend with all saints
what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge,
that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Ephesians 3:16-19