When people are sick, they go to the hospital. But where can we go to find the remedy for the deep-seated maladies that afflict our souls? If you knew there was such a place, would you go there?
Death and the fear of death are enemies to mankind. No one escapes. All the money in the world can't buy anyone out of it. Rich, poor, black, white, male, or female -- all are participants. Life is but a vapor, fragile and temporary. All through recorded human history, tribes and nations of men deal with the understanding of their imminent death, and the fear of it in very similar ways. In many ancient cultures, animal sacrifices and sometimes even human sacrifices were made to please or appease their gods. This was done because of the fear of mishap or tragedy coming upon themselves. These people sensed a need in themselves to make sacrifices to appease any judgment that might be ready to fall upon them because of their misdeeds. Fear of tragedy coming upon them or their loved ones, as judgment for the guilt for their sins, made them want to make amends to whatever god they worshipped.
Man knows his need to reach the divine being who created him because he senses that his actions have separated him from his Creator. Man also knows that he deserves to die for the things he has done to hurt himself and others. But in his heart he has the hope that the death of a sacrifice could be a substitute for him. That sacrifice would be receiving what he really deserves himself. Countless animals have been sacrificed in this way in man's attempt to bridge the gap between God and himself.
The reality of the impending death that faces each man should cause him to grieve and yearn for deliverance from it. That is why the God of Israel commanded the people to sacrifice animals. Each time a man sacrificed an innocent animal, he was reminded of the consequences of being cut off from his Creator and the cost of forgiveness. The result of sin was death. Israel was to be a people who were keenly aware that they deserved to die instead of that lamb. Through the example of that one nation the whole world would come to know the way out of death.
Once a year each person would sacrifice a young lamb. The requirement was that the lamb must be your very best one, the one without spot or blemish, the one that was worth the most money, the one you would feel the loss of the most. An Israelite who was devoted to his God would bring his best lamb, or purchase the best one he could find if he didn't own a herd, and bring the little creature to Jerusalem for the Passover. He took the little lamb into his home to pity it and pet it for several days. He needed to be affectionately attached to the lamb before he made the sacrifice so he could share the pain.
When he brought the lamb to the priests in Jerusalem, he would put his hand on the head of the little lamb and confess every sin he was aware of in his conscience. The priest would look him right in the eyes and tell him that he deserved to die instead of the little lamb. The priest would then cut the animal's throat and the creature's blood would pump out from the rapid beating of its heart. If the man was true to his heart and conscience within him, he returned home a forgiven man. A life was given for a life to live -- the lamb's life for the man's life. The lamb's blood was given as a substitute for the man's blood.
Israel had laws and statutes that governed every conceivable situation in a human being's life, every possible circumstance that could happen. But even with such a strict, clear standard of conduct, the most devout could not fully keep this law, because sin came forth from the inner man in unguarded moments. Every man who is truly honest knows that he falls short of this standard. This is why the God of Israel provided the sacrificial lamb as a kind provision of His law. This sacrificial lamb was God's provision for the sins of His people until their hearts could be prepared to receive the ultimate sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
In the beginning there had been the promise that later on in history, after men completely understood it, God Himself would pay the price for their sin. This promise was the good news that could set all mankind free. The prophets of Israel told of One to come who would totally deliver them -- a Deliverer who would rescue them from death. Somehow, to the discerning, they knew that more was needed than just the shedding of a lamb's blood -- a greater sacrifice was needed to really get to the root of man's failure and his sin. Year after year of sacrificing lambs still did not heal the root problem in man.
There are many people who really don't think they need their sins forgiven, or even acknowledge that the bad things they do are "sin" at all. They think they can pacify the guilt they feel in their conscience by trying to make themselves better and trying to make the world a better place to live. This is also a vain attempt to cultivate the already-cursed ground of fallen humanity. It just wasn't enough that the blood of an animal could be the true substitute for the sins of a man. It has to be a man's life for another man to truly be a fair and just substitute. But the blood of a man whose conscience is stained with guilt can't be substituted for the sins of another man whose conscience is also stained with guilt, for everyone ever born has guilt-stained blood.
What was needed was the incarnation. That is the union of divinity with humanity. The eternal Word of God took on human flesh and blood in the man Yahshua, the Anointed One. The blood of a child is inherited from the seed of his father. That's why the stain of guilt passes from one generation to the next. But our Master Yahshua was not born from the fallen seed of man. The Holy Spirit came upon a young Hebrew virgin named Miriam, placing a human seed, preserved from before the fall, into her womb, and that is how Yahshua was conceived. Therefore, He did not have corrupt man's blood. He was pure.
Divinity put on humanity in the greatest love story in human history. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. Our heavenly Father offered His only Son as a sacrifice for us.
Yahshua could have failed. He could have disobeyed as the first man, Adam, did when he fell. But He suffered and overcame for you and me. He did it as a human being like us. He did not overcome sin and temptation through mystical, superhuman power. He did not walk around with a halo on His head and a cosmic, supernatural look in his countenance as He is often portrayed. He is not an unattainable, mystical being whom you cannot relate to.
He was a warm human being who loved children, and children loved Him. He was tempted with and overcame every sin the human race is beset with. He has taken total identity with you as a person. He died for every sin in you, no matter how terrible or how trivial it may seem to you. His blood can cleanse you of your sins, if you believe upon His name. If I were to die for you and give my blood as a sacrifice for your sins, it wouldn't work. But His blood works. He is your only hope. No other name can save you. He is the only one. He is salvation. His name means salvation. This Salvation is God's free gift to you to save you from your sins.
He told His disciples one time that to be His disciple you had to eat His body and drink His blood. (A large number of people went back to their homes and quit following Him after that statement. They had better things to do.) Though it sounds strange, the Son of God was trying to make a point! In the same way, many ancient tribes understood that the life of something or someone was in their blood. Thus, they made blood covenants with one another, binding agreements. It is a promise of "life for life." His life for you is in His blood. When Yahshua shed his blood for us in death, the Father forever bound Himself to honor the death of that Lamb that would pay the price for man's sins once and for all time.
If you don't lay your hand upon the head of that Lamb as your substitute in death, identifying your total being with Him, as the slain lamb sacrificed for you, it does not count on your behalf. You must actually lean your entire personality on Him in faith and confidence before you can reach His blood. This blood is the only thing that has the power to cleanse your dirty conscience and forgive you forever and ever. You will not be able to come into this new blood covenant any other way.
This covenant is not a mystical experience that is way beyond your reach. In giving up your old life among his people who are gathered here on this earth in tribes of caring, forgiven people you will find the reality of "life for life." You will come to understand all about his death on the cross, where He shed His blood, and how that can become a reality in your daily life of covenant love, lived for Him alone. It is there where you can learn what it means to "repent" (change your whole way of life). You can't do it merely by reading a Bible or believing something in your mind, or by listening to a preacher on TV. You must count the cost. It's life for life.
You must give up everything that makes up "your life." You must give up all your possessions, as well as all your personal ambitions, just a surely as a man who enters his grave in death cannot take anything with him. Any earthly tie with relatives or former friends who would hinder you from following Him must be left behind. Hanging on to anything betrays the fact that you are not truly giving up "your life" -- thus His life will not be given for you... "Life for Life."
This is the absolute call of a good God who knows how to save us. The Son of God made it supremely clear in His own words when He said:
Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel's, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time -- houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions -- and in the age to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
If you give up your life, you will find life, true life, eternal life. You will reach the blood that can wash you clean and make you new inside. His life will live in your life.
After hearing such good news of love and forgiveness, what other response could a man have but to devote the rest of his life in giving thankful appreciation for this sacrifice?
If you love your life, you will lose it. If you want to hang on to your life, you can -- at least until you die. After you die, you will face judgment along with everyone else who has ever lived. That is when we will all have to answer for the way we lived these few years on this planet. Then it will become all too clear what our deep inner motives were. It will either be a day of shame or a day of rejoicing.
So, if you love your fallen, rotten, stinking, lonely life, you can keep it. But without the benefit of the sacrifice there will be no remedy for all your maladies. But if you are one of His sheep who desires a new life, you can give up your life and receive the remedy. If you do, you will find true life -- eternal life. You will be joined together with His people in a life together. It is just what you've always wanted.