Do you ever feel like you’re just not quite good enough for God? You know you have sin in your life. You also know God knows you have sin in your life. You’d like to quit messing around with these sins because you know they’re wrong. You really do try to stop. But when you’re tired or stressed, you give in to temptation.
Then you feel guilty. Since you’re disappointed in yourself, God must be disappointed too. You ask God to forgive you and promise to try harder. If you can just be more faithful, God will love you more.
For a while, you’re able to hold on and hold out. Then something happens and you give in again. This time the feelings of guilt and disappointment are a little worse. Since you feel worse about yourself, God must feel the same way.
So, you promise God and yourself you’ll try even harder this time. But the vicious cycle continues and eventually you’re exhausted. You feel like giving up because you just can’t do this anymore.
If this describes you, I have some good news. This pattern for dealing with sin isn’t what the Bible teaches.
What payment did God demand for the forgiveness of sins in the Old Testament? Innocent Blood. Animals were sacrificed on the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 16:6-10 says, “6 “Aaron (the high priest) is to offer the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household. 7 Then he is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 8 He is to cast lots for the two goats—one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat.
9 Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. 10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the wilderness as a scapegoat.”
After the bull and first goat were sacrificed, their blood was sprinkled in the Most Holy Place inside the Tabernacle. Aaron then placed his hands on the head of the other goat and confessed the sins of the nation. This goat was then released into the wilderness to take away the sins of the people.
These animals weren’t the ones who sinned. They were innocent but God used their blood to make atonement for the sins of his people.
We now live in the New Testament times. What does God demand for the forgiveness of our sins? Innocent Blood. 1 John 1:5-7 says, “5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”
Did Jesus die on the cross to atone for his own sins? No. He did it so that our sins could be forgiven by God.
If you’re trying to earn God’s forgiveness for the sins you committed in the past or the ones you still struggle with now, please quit trying. You don’t have any innocent blood to offer. There is no way we can earn our salvation or earn God’s love by being “better.” Jesus’ shed blood covers our past, present and future sins.
Jesus not only provides salvation for us through his death and resurrection, he gives us something we all desperately need. Rest. Matthew 11:25-30 says, “25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.
27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Did you notice what Jesus said in vs. 28? “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Are we worn out from the struggles that our sins and the sins of others have put on us? If we are, Jesus offers us rest from all the burdens they place on us.
The rest he’s talking about here isn’t physical rest. It’s much better. According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, the Greek word translated to “rest” in this verse is “not the rest of inactivity but of the harmonious working of all the faculties and affections – of will, heart, imagination, conscience- because each has found in God the ideal sphere for its satisfaction and development.” Basically, this means Jesus offers us spiritual, emotional and mental rest.
Jesus said it is found in being yoked with him. This refers to the practice of yoking two oxen together with a wooden yoke to pull a plow, cart or something else. Many of the things oxen had to pull were heavy and difficult. Jesus said the load he wants us to pull is easy and light because he is gentle and humble in heart.
If this is true, then why don’t we feel well rested most of the time? In order for us to fully realize what Jesus is saying, we need to understand the context in which he said it. He was still living under the old covenant of following the laws, offering sacrifices and attending the holy festivals. Even though the Jewish people in the Old Testament already had salvation because they were God’s chosen people, they made walking with God about doing all of the right things instead of trusting in God’s saving grace to guide them to do the right thing.
According to modern biblical N.T. Wright, “The Pharisees had spoken of people being called to carry ‘the yoke of the Torah (the first five books in the Old Testament),’ the heavy burden of the Jewish law with all its commandments. Jesus offered a different ‘yoke,’ which, because it came from his mercy and love, was easy to bear.” The Old Testament way of doing things was replaced by faith and obedience to Jesus after he rose from the dead.
Jesus now says, “Come to me. Accept the salvation I offer you through my shed blood. Make me more important than anything else in your life. Let me handle your problems and then trust me even if the results aren’t what you hoped they would be. Give me complete obedience. When you do these things, I will give you spiritual, emotional and mental rest.”
We can’t earn our salvation. We can’t earn peace and rest either. Only Jesus can give us these things. If we want them, we simply allow Jesus to be the most important thing in our lives and then let him work in us.
Are you willing to completely give yourself to Jesus so you can be free from the punishment your sins deserve? Are you ready to be free from the burdens of guilt, anger, stress, low self-esteem, worry, unforgiveness, pride and arrogance? If you are, then, through prayer, completely yoke yourself to Jesus and trust him to lead you.