“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (New Revised Standard Version)
Once and for all. Those are some of the most gruesome and beautiful words in the entirety of Holy Scripture. The sacrifices of bulls and goats in the Old Testament had its place. But those were mere shadows pointing to the reality of Messiah – the one whose sacrifice is so potent as to do away with sacrifice forever.
Christ’s cross was the once for all sacrifice that has settled the sin issue forever.
This is the heart of the New Testament’s good news. Forgiveness of sins comes through the sheer grace of God in Christ. Through faith, we have the privilege of entering the realm of new life. In other words, Jesus has paved the way for eternal life, everlasting salvation, and complete remission of sins.
If it has not yet become self-apparent as to why Christ’s once for all sacrifice is such a game changer, then let’s take the cross from this angle: guilt is done away with, forever. Do you think your life would change forever if you never had guilt hanging over your head? What if all your past indiscretions; stupid life decisions; failures to speak or act; overt things done which you cannot take back; or, even the little things said or done in anger or hate; were all washed away, forever?
The precious blood of Jesus has nailed guilt to the cross once and for all. There are three options of dealing with a guilty conscience when it happens.
First, you can rationalize it away, as if you have no responsibility or no culpability. This is a one-way path to hardness of heart. Whenever we sin in speech or in action, and don’t acknowledge it as our fault, then there is a little piece of us which hardens. The next time it happens, it’s a bit easier to respond with callousness. If you’ve ever encountered someone who seems utterly unfeeling to your situation, then there has likely been a pattern in that person’s life of keeping distance from pain. It only leads to hardness of heart.
A second way of facing guilt is just the opposite of rationalization. It is to punish and beat yourself for your faults and sins. Heaping abuse on ourselves for our sins takes two different tracks with either: discouragement, defeat, and depression resulting in inaction; or, working like crazy to try and earn God’s favor with hyper-activity. Both ways are a kind of self-imposed penance to try and atone for one’s sins or failures.
The third way is a biblical path to facing guilt. When there is true guilt for things done or undone, said or unsaid, we must confess it, repent of it, and believe God has taken care of it. Unlike dealing with guilt in unhealthy ways resulting in callousness, discouragement, and super-activity, the path of confession and repentance allows the person to have a clear conscience, resulting in freedom. Christ’s once for all sacrifice is completely able to clear the conscience of the worshiper so that he/she may live into the grace and freedom of an enjoyable daily life.
Nothing needs to hang over the believer’s head because Jesus Christ, the pioneer of our salvation, has accomplished deliverance from and forgiveness of sin, once and for all. He didn’t just put a nice-looking veneer over sin; he took care of it, thoroughly. Jesus didn’t whitewash things so that we looked okay; the salvation he offers is permanent.
The cross which held Christ’s naked and tortured body exposed the true violence and injustice of sin. The cross revealed what kind of world we have and what kind of God we have: a world of gross unfairness and sin; and, a God of extreme sacrificial love and grace.
What this world, and you and me, need more than anything else is forgiveness – not a cheap sentimental forgiving, but a real forgiveness that is so costly that it lasts forever and ever.
Either to justify or to judge is God’s business. Our business is to believe in the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus that brings permanent and lasting forgiveness; and, to share that life-giving message with others so that they, too, might experience deliverance from sin and its horrible effects.
“For he delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14, NIV)
May you know the freedom and joy today which comes from knowing Christ as Savior.