Each November, I watch friends and family complete the “’I’m thankful for _______’ Thanksgiving Challenge” on Facebook. Although I think the idea is genius, and truly believe that gratitude can change even the grimmest pessimist’s heart, this year, I’ve struggled with it.
You see, this year has been hard for a lot of people.
Just in my immediate circle, I’ve had one friend lose a 10 year+ battle with cancer, leaving behind a husband and her kids, while another friend got diagnosed with the disease. I’ve had friends find out they can’t have kids, while one of my other friends lost the baby she was carrying at full-term. Family members have passed, neighbors have lost jobs, and natural disasters have ripped the possessions away from entire communities.
It’s been a rough one – and writing about the “good” things in my life has felt insensitive at times.
Obviously, I know that we should never shy away from being thankful for the things we have, but making a public declaration of them while so many people are suffering…
I think you get my point.
The other day, however, I came across something we can all be thankful for – regardless of economic position, health, size of family, or location – and I want to share it with you.
In case you don’t know, the worship of God used to operate on a code of sacrifices. Now, for the sake of being less wordy than I could be, let me just explain it like this:
God is perfect. He created man and woman in a perfect place and asked them to follow Him, but they chose to sin. (In other words, they chose something they knew would lead them away from God.) Therefore, all of their children were born sinful, and their children after them. Sin (the inability to be perfect) was bred into the family tree of humanity – and no one was/is free of it. Now, fast-forward through multiple Patriarchs (founding fathers of sorts) and you land on the Israelites, a nation of people God set aside to represent him on earth. The Israelites, who were just led out of slavery in Egypt by God’s power through Moses, are wandering in the desert when God gives commands to Moses. The commands lined out the path to a full life and the way to have a relationship with God.
Now, because perfection cannot dwell with imperfection, God (perfection) created a way for man (imperfection) to have a relationship with him. He created the sacrificial system. Sacrifices were listed. Goats, sheep, and other animals were to be killed in order to atone for the sin of the people. Only blood would work – and only the blood of a perfect animal.
Ok…this brings me back to my point.
I was reading the other day, when I came across this verse, and it made me thankful:
“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who were ceremonially unclean (too dirty to come before the Lord) sanctif[ied] them so that they [were] outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” – Hebrews 9:13&14
If you’re like me, you’ve felt the weightiness of sin.
You’ve said something you shouldn’t have said, done something you shouldn’t have done, and gone somewhere you didn’t need to be. You’ve hurt people, lied to people, and have pushed others aside. You’ve discounted life to follow your own desires and have felt the emptiness that follows.
Sin stinks – and it’s not a friend to any of us.
There was a time in my life when I tried to fix my issues with sin. I tried to force my sin into a box so that it didn’t affect anyone and didn’t cause harm like it had in the past. However, the stuffing didn’t work.
Hearts can never be changed by external things.
You see, the verse above mentions that the Old Testament rituals that the Israelites performed didn’t save them. The rituals didn’t cleanse their insides because, as the text says, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls to take away sins” (10:4). By faith that God was who he said he was, the Israelites performed sacrifices, but it didn’t do the trick.
Externally, through the sacrifices, the Israelites were made clean, but only through faith in God (which eventually led to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross) were they made, internally clean.
Through Christ’s perfect sacrifice (he was without sin), I am made clean. His death covered all of my imperfections making me internally clean before God. Even though I still sin, it doesn’t have to define me because when God sees me, he sees the blood of his Son – the only truly perfect sacrifice.
I can have fellowship with God because His blood covers me. A blood sacrifice has always been his standard.
“By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” – Hebrews 10:14
Christ died for me – and he died for you, too. Christ’s death on the cross was enough…forever. No matter how many good things you do, without Christ, you are only cleaning up the outside.
I don’t know where you are or what you believe, but there is a God, He’s faithful, He loves you, and He wants you to know Him. I know Him – and because of that I’m forgiven and bound for Heaven.
In Him, there’s hope that never fades. It isn’t dependent upon anything this world has to offer. Rich, poor, with, or without, it’s available.
I’m thankful for the grace of God and his work on the cross. I’m thankful that he didn’t leave me to die in my sin, but by his compassion and grace (unmerited favor), He saved me.
I’m thankful – and that’s for sure.
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart.” – Hebrews 3:15