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Nearer to Jesus

March 15, 2016

Sunday “Judica”Cordero de Dios

Jesus prayed while he lived on earth. He made his appeal with sincere cries and tears. He prayed to the God who could save him from death. God answered Jesus because he truly honored God.  Jesus was God’s Son. But by suffering he learned what it means to obey. 9 In this way he was made perfect. Eternal salvation comes from him. He saves all those who obey him. 10 God appointed him to be the high priest, just like Melchizedek.

Hebrews 5:7-10 (NIV)

One day I was talking to a lady friend of mine, who belonged to another Christian denomination, and she said: ‘I asked the Virgin Mary and decided to walk in the procession. It starts tomorrow and I will walk 100 Km until the sanctuary. I asked her: “Why do you do that?” She answered me: “So the Virgin will listen to me and answer my prayers.” She thought that her sacrifice, the effort she was making, would win the esteem of God. Perhaps some of us might smile at this, because we know that God does not work that way. But also among our people, Lutherans, we have many who think that by coming to church God will bless them during the week and so they make every effort to come to church. Is this true? If you had to make an effort to come to church, it won’t be true, because the rites, the efforts and the sacrifices do not ‘get’ anything from God. But if you came to church today because you have a relationship with God, based on a genuine obedience, yes, I have to say to you: it will be true!

This Sunday the word that seems to stand out is obedience. Obedience is a word that seems somewhat old fashioned to some.
But there are two kinds of obedience, the obedience that allows me to live wisely and obedience that comes from oppression. There is a kind of obedience to which we are committed, as we are convinced that it is for our good. And there is another kind of obedience we have to show when we are oppressed and subjugated, we have not chosen it, it has been imposed.
People usually confuse these two kinds of obedience which use the same term. But at church we speak of a good kind of obedience. This is the kind of obedience that comes from the love of one’s choice and we know we do it because it suits us, but sometimes we don’t understand. Many children and young people still obey their parents, for the love they have for them and because they know that the given orders are for their best. Obedience that comes from totalitarianism and oppression destroys lives, but the obedience that comes from a wise command saves lives and builds people. For us Christians, obedience means: surrender, commitment and devotion. It ultimately comes from the love we have for God and with it we show the faith we have in Him. People are not obedient to God because they choose to be; they can be obedient to God because they have recognized God’s love for them and have given in to Him in faith. The strength to obey God really comes after we accept Christ. The Holy Spirit gives us strength and clarity to obey God, but we must first give ourselves to Him in order to receive this power.

Immediately, when we read the text, we feel that these are words are directed towards us. And it is well to think so. The Bible is directed toward us through our daily reading. In this case, the word is not saying that we have to imitate Jesus’ obedience, effort, sacrifice and suffering, but the author of the epistle brings the message that all of this the Lord has already done for us. Through his perfect suffering and death on the cross He accomplished it, He saved us.

I don’t know if you can understand what it means to be saved. Sometimes it is difficult to understand the concept of salvation; it sounds more like theology than everyday words. But we understand all of these things when we ourselves need God’s help. We understand when we have sinned, we understand when we go wrong in life and we understand when we desperately search for something or someone to help us. We will understand when we are overwhelmed or depressed without knowing who can help us. We will understand when we have fears and fears make us sick or they don’t allow us to sleep. When we cry out to God for help, when we feel needs or feel guilt, then we will remember Jesus. Unfortunately with the human being is so, as it was well said by Corrie Ten Boom: ‘You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have’.

The Jewish people of the Old Testament believed that in order to please God they should build Him an impressive building, which they called the temple. They believed that God dwelled in the most remote and inaccessible place of all, a place which only a high priest could get to. Every time the country was in dire need, the high priest went to that place to give an offering, a sacrifice to God in the tabernacle to calm Him, to please Him, to curry favor, God’s blessing and the solution to their problems.

In our search for God, the tabernacle has great symbolism. Once a year, the high priest entered the most holy place to present an offering before God for the forgiveness of people’s sins. But, our high priest, Jesus, has already offered a perfect sacrifice. Through his blood we can reach the holiest of holy places. Now, every day we can enter that sanctuary through the blood of Jesus. All those who accept Jesus Christ as Redeemer can access the most intimate sphere offered by God. There no longer is a need for legalistic works, incomprehensible precepts, unsafe sacrifices, tiring processions or imposed fasting. Religion, rituals or customs cannot replace the Holy Spirit of God. To practice a religion and to fulfill all precepts, including the most detailed, won’t bring me closer to God. As a show off I won’t be better than those who don’t. You have to know that the only good and acceptable works for God are those that arise from a grateful heart as a result of a genuine surrender to Him. It is impossible that by merely belonging to a church by tradition or custom that I become a true Christian. Christianity doesn’t have to do with laws or the precepts of institutions. It does have to do with holiness and obedience. But that holiness is the fruit of a new relationship with God.

In all the Israelites’ religious rituals, sacrificial blood had a privileged place. It was the same with purification, washing and regeneration. Through the sacrifice of animals, they wanted to give of themselves; they wanted to do so to please the divinity. It was perhaps a primitive way of getting closeness and compassion from God. From Jesus Christ, we believe we move forward into our idea of spirituality. On more than one occasion he leaves us a clear message, not only through the Gospels (Mt 9:13) “What I desire is mercy and not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners”, but also through the words of his disciples: “We know that no one who depends on the law is made right with God. This is because “the one who is right with God will live by faith”. (Gal 3: 11ff).

In our KW community there are many people burdened by their guilt, their sins. They are people who need love, they need a purpose for their lives, they need forgiveness, they need to believe they have worth and that they are created for something and they need to be freed from their worries, their remorse, their sorrows, and their anger. It is no longer the blood of calves and sheep that brings us closer to God, much less the sacrifices, or fulfillments or incoherent works, as many religions think.
Jesus wants you near to him and wants to make you free, to cleanse you and make you new again. For that to occur, only your faith matters – do you want a real relationship with him?

If we read carefully, we will discover that the theme of this whole epistle is addressed, as its name implies, to the issues concerning the early Christians who came from the Hebrew people; those Jews who had accepted the message of salvation in Christ. Again and again the author of the Epistle wants to expose to these new Christians the clear nature of the New Covenant between God and His people.
The whole Gospel wants to point to something new, a new message, especially for the people of Israel: a new relationship with God.
Even today, there are many Christians who haven’t yet found this new relationship God wants since the coming of His Son. And they think that God is a God of law and merit that certain things must be done to “gain heaven.” Jesus takes away all sacrifice and shows us that we were firstly created to live in relationship with God; if that relationship is lost there will be a void in our lives. If we don’t have that relationship with God, we will never find the true purpose of our lives. God gives meaning to our life, eternal life and salvation. To restore that relationship you only need forgiveness. By dying on the cross Jesus provided us with forgiveness and he offers us and gives us the reestablishment of a new direct relationship with God.
Coming to church, —no matter what the name of your Church is— is a way of achieving a relationship and fluid communication with Christ. It is not to enforce laws or rituals. If this morning you can go home with that idea, the Lord will bless you, your life will change, because you are accepting as a savior a living God who wants to bless you and intervene in your life with His power. To us, God is a God who died, rose again and is alive; he is just waiting for you to know it and live a happier life, from now on, on this earth.

Prayer: Lord, help so that we may find out that you just want a new relationship with us; help us to respond to this invitation. Lord Jesus, I present to you everything that weighs on me, make me new by your precious shed blood. Amen.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. margkahl permalink
    March 15, 2016 3:22 pm

    Thank you, enjoyed reading it, I have to work on obedience! Margaret

    Sent from my iPad

    >

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