Jarring title? Hear me out.
As I drove to work the other day, I prayed. I was thinking about how short I fall in every area of my life: as a father, as a husband, as a Christian, as a churchman, as a blogger, as a friend, as a brother, as a citizen....
Then I said, "Thank God for the blood of Jesus" — and immediately cringed to hear myself pray it.
"Cringed"? Why? How could such an absolute core-truth of Christianity bring a wince, a recoil?
Simple: because I've heard that sort of talk used so often by folks whose concern is to paper over their ongoing, deliberate, unrepentant sin. I've heard Jesus' blood adduced to explain why it makes sense to grant a glorious eulogy to a man who apparently died an open, unrepentant homosexual clergyman; to rationalize ongoing open violence to the fifth commandment; to tut-tut open defection from the Word of God.
And so that is the background against which those wonderful words make me cringe. Listen: Jesus did not shed His blood on the cross to make us feel okay about our ongoing, deliberate, unrepentant sin. Jesus did not shed His blood to make sin okay; He shed it precisely because sin is not okay, has never been okay, will never be okay.
So what about my prayer, my praise? I went on to think just how much I needed and still need the blood of Jesus, all the time, even while striving as hard as I might (as opposed to yielding to sin, like the horrible examples I mentioned). I thought, What if God said "You pick the area of your life that I can judge you on. Pick your strongest, best, most consistent area"? What then? Easy. I'd be doomed, instantly doomed, forever doomed. No sooner would the test be distributed than I'd hear "All right, pencils down. Test over."
We're not talking about ongoing, deliberate, unrepentant sin here, either (on this subject). We're just talking about the weakness, shallowness, inconstancy, inconsistency, and fleshly carry-overs that plague believers. The ongoing reality of Romans 7:14-25. Do we need the blood of Jesus there? Oh, yes, I think we do. I know for a fact we do.
Now here's the final, biting irony: I have this fear that many of those who thank God for Jesus' blood as I mentioned — because of how good it makes them feel about their ongoing, deliberate, unrepentant sin — have not yet been touched by that blood.
Because that same blood that purchases forgiveness also purchases freedom (Romans 3:27; Ephesians 1:7; Matthew 1:21; Hebrews 9:14). When we die with Him, we die to sin's lordship (Romans 6). If we are still under that unbroken domination, that lordship, we've not died that death. Though we are never and in no way justified because we do battle with sin, justification is the beginning and cause of a lifetime of such a battle. The battle is not a component, but it is an effect.
So thank God for the blood of Jesus.
Not because His blood makes my sin okay, but because His blood makes me okay with God, and delivers me from sin's guilt and power.
Through the shedding of Christ's blood, I am forgiven for my sins (Matthew 26:28), and I am counted perfectly righteous in God's courtroom (Romans 5:9). In Christ I have the price paid to secure my freedom, through His blood (Ephesians 1:7). Christ's blood turned God's wrath from me (Romans 3:25), and cleansed my conscience from dead works, that I might serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14). By Christ's blood I have confidence to walk right into the presence of God without terror (Hebrews 10:19). As I walk in the light, Christ's blood continues to cleanse me from all sin (1 John 1:7). His blood has loosed me from my sins (Revelation 1:5).
In fact, I might bring it all 'round to this:
- The sign that Christ's blood has been applied to me is not that I feel good about my sin
- The sign that Christ's blood has been applied to me is that I am dead to sin and alive to God in Christ, that I continue day by day to turn to Christ from sin, and walk in newness of life.