Below is the text of my sermon from yesterday at the Northgate/Creekside Church. I would love to hear any feedback that you might have. You can also subscribe to our new podcast and listen to the message as soon as it’s uploaded in iTunes.
So today my message is called Simple Grace and this is a message where I will be in danger of geeking out. I studied Biblical Literature at Northwest University, and this is one of the concepts that is really central to the whole Bible, so bear with me as we go through this. We are going to be hopping to three different passages today. The source text though is in Leviticus 16 where Moses actually gives the instructions for the Day of Atonement. but before we talk about that we need to start at the beginning of the story.
So if you have a Bible, please open it up to Genesis Chapter 3. I’m not going to read this whole chapter, but I’m going to go over the basic gist of the story.
God Created Man and Woman in His image. He created Adam and Eve perfect, and he placed them in the garden. He said they could do anything they wanted to, except eat from the Tree of Good and Evil. The Devil came as serpent and told Adam and Eve that God was really just trying to limit their potential because if they did eat the fruit from the tree because then then they would be like God.
Eve took it and ate it, and then Adam did the same. The biggest problem with this story is that Adam was right there and he knew that they shouldn’t eat this fruit but he did it anyway. And because of this act of disobedience they introduced sin into the entire world.
So that’s my first point — Sin is everyone’s problem.
All they had to do was be naked eat fruit and tend the garden, but they messed it up for everyone. I think the naked Eve messed up Adam’s brain, he couldn’t think clearly anymore, I mean look at all he got done before Eve came along, he named all the animals for crying out loud, and then, God introduces a naked woman and Adam’s brains turn to mush. You have try to have a in depth conversation with a guy who just got married? Not happening.
So Adam and Eve realize that they have done something wrong and so they try to hide from God, sound familiar? I think we all have tried to hide from God at some point in our lives.
But God comes looking for them, And he calls out, and finally Adam gets up and says, we realized that we were naked so we hid from you. God says who told you that you were naked? The Serpent — Convinced the woman — And Adam did what she told him to. God knows that this is going to drive a wedge of separation between mankind, this separation is because of sin. So God gives three curses — one to Adam, one to Eve, and one to the serpent.
And the Serpent’s curse is the one that I want to look at today. Genesis 3:14 pg 3 in the chair Bible
So the LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring [a] and hers; he will crush [b] your head, and you will strike his heel.”
This passage has a really cool greek name, it’s called the protoeuangelion — or the First Gospel. This passage is God’s first mention that there will be a man who will finally crush Satan. And that person as we know today is Jesus. If you saw the passion of the Christ right at the beginning in the Garden Jesus is being harassed by the Devil, and Jesus stands up and actually crushes a serpent under his feet. Pretty cool how Mel Gibson worked that in.
But Here in Genesis 3 right after Sin was introduced to the world. God promised to provide a way to deal with this sin problem. God didn’t just leave us on our own to toil and struggle with sin. God’s promised to deal with sin once and for all, and to deal with the serpent, Satan, the deceiver once and for all.
But between Genesis three and Jesus on the cross sin is still everyone’s problem. So God gives the israelites a means to have their sins atoned for, and that’s what leviticus 16 talks about, the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. So if you have your Bible go ahead and turn there with me.
Leviticus 16 pg 82 in your chair Bible — We’ll look at chunks of this, but I’ll try sum it up so that we don’t just read the whole passage, because then you might fall asleep.
1 The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron who died when they approached the LORD. 2 The LORD said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover.
So let’s set the story a little bit. Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu, decided that they were privileged enough to go into the presence of God at any time, and they disregarded the holiness of God and their own sinfulness. (Pastors Kids) And they died when they busted into God’s presence. So God is telling Moses the way in which Aaron, the High Priest is supposed to Come into God’s presence to make atonement for the sins of the people.
3 “This is how Aaron is to enter the sanctuary area: with a young bull for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. 4 He is to put on the sacred linen tunic, with linen undergarments next to his body; he is to tie the linen sash around him and put on the linen turban. These are sacred garments; so he must bathe himself with water before he puts them on. 5 From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.
6 “Aaron 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. [a] 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 desert as a scapegoat.
11 “Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering.
Let me try to sum up what the Day of Atonement procedures looked like
Aaron the High Priest was to bring 3 animals, one bull and two goats.
The Bull was to be sacrificed for Aaron and his family’s sins, and the blood sprinkled on the elements in the tabernacle to atone them. I thought it was interesting that the priest and his family have to use this huge animal for it’s sins, but the entire nation of israel was covered by two goats. I think it’s James who says that preachers are held more accountable for their lives. Maybe this bull thing goes along those lines.
Aaron was supposed to cast lots for the two goats, one was going to be sacrificed and the blood sprinkled over the altar.
The other Goat was designated as a scape goat. V. 21 explains this:
21 He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites—all their sins—and put them on the goat’s head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. 22 The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.
This scape goat took all the sins and was released into the wilderness to die. This is where we get the term scapegoat, when some one takes the blame for other people, he’s the scapegoat.
There are so many different regulations and requirements for the Day of Atonement, and there are indications that if the high priest did anything wrong, if he missed a step, or if he went to quickly or didn’t wash his clothes well enough, he would die like Nadab and Abihu.
People have said that the high priest wore bells around the hem of his robe so that the other workers in the tabernacle would be able to hear if he was still moving, because if he stopped moving then he could be dead, so they would tie a cord around his foot so if the Lord did strike him down, and the bells stopped then the other priests could pull him out.
Why are there sacrifices anyway? Sin = death. When Adam and Eve sinned they didn’t just mess up, death was introduced to the world. And so to cover over sin, something has to die, so God provided these sacrifices and offerings as away of pouring out grace.
But The Day of Atonement procedure was detailed and complicated
29 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves [b] and not do any work—whether native-born or an alien living among you- 30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins. 31 It is a sabbath of rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance. 32 The priest who is anointed and ordained to succeed his father as high priest is to make atonement. He is to put on the sacred linen garments 33 and make atonement for the Most Holy Place, for the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and for the priests and all the people of the community.
34 “This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: Atonement is to be made once a year for all the sins of the Israelites.” And it was done, as the LORD commanded Moses.
Not only was this procedure complicated,
The Day of Atonement had to be re-enacted every year. The day of atonement was never finished. year after year the High Priest would have to come in and make the sacrifices, follow the exact same procedure, send the scape goat out into the wilderness with the weight of the sins of israel to die in the wilderness. But this was never ever finished. When does the protoeuangelion come, when will God finally deal with the sin issue. When will the serpent’s head be crushed?
Jesus completed the Day of Atonement.
Do you remember in the gospels when Jesus was asked if he was going to over throw the law and the prophets with his new teachings? What did he say? He said No, I haven’t come to overthrow the law but to fulfill the law. And when you look at the Old Testament feasts and celebrations Jesus has fulfilled them or will fulfill them when he returns. And that’s what he did with the Day of Atonement.
The book of Hebrews really sums this up nicely. The whole book is really about how great Jesus is. The Author compares Jesus to angels, Moses, and the priests. And ultimately paints Jesus as the greatest High Priest ever, who was able to fulfill the role of the High Priest eternally. So turn in your bible to Hebrews 7:18 page 849 in the chair bible.
Somehow I just keep gravitating back to this book, and if you haven’t read Hebrews in a while, or you’ve never read it, then let me recommend that you do so, because this book just keeps pointing us back to Jesus and how superior he is to the rest that the world has to offer.
18The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless 19(for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
Lets take a minute right here to mention something. The law in the Old Testament, wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t strong enough. It didn’t actually solve the sin problem. Paul tells us in Romans that if it wasn’t for the law he wouldn’t have known what sin was. And so the author of Hebrews is stating something similar here, he’s saying that the laws were given to keep order and help people live good lives, and cover over their sins. But really it didn’t change their nature away from being sinners. Where did the sins go? The wilderness, they weren’t ultimately destroyed.
Let me give you an example, if you look at today’s laws, one that many of us break might be the Speed Limit. The Speed Limit is a nice law, and it lets me know how to get along with the rest of society in a nice and orderly way and it helps so that I don’t bring harm to others, but the Speed Limit can never actually change my desire to drive fast. That’s like the law, it’s tells you how to live well and in community, and what not to do, but it doesn’t actually change the desires within you. That’s what Jesus does with this new covenant.
20And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, 21but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’ “[b] 22Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.
So God promised someone that would deal with the sin issue, and here in reference to the Psalms, the author is saying that this passage was about Jesus, that Jesus would be this eternal high priest, and with this better eternal high priest would come a better eternal covenant, a new more perfect law. A better covenant, a new stronger covenant between God and men.
23Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25Therefore he is able to save completely[c] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
26Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.
1The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.
So Jesus who lived a perfect sinless life, and died on the cross a brutal and humiliating death, for us. Jesus became the sacrifice for all who would believe in him so that we wouldn’t need the Earthly high priest anymore. We don’t need two goats and a bull to make sure that our sins are covered for a year. We don’t have to repeat the procedure, we don’t have to worry that if we come into the presence of God wrong, he’ll strike us dead and we’ll have to be dragged out of church by our feet. We don’t have to worry about all that anymore, because Jesus has simplified grace for us.
One of the more subtle things that the author or Hebrews does here in this passage is he tells us that Jesus sat down. What’s interesting is that Jesus is serving in the heavenly tabernacle, which is the prototype for the earthly tabernacle, which in the design specifications didn’t have any seats. There was no where to sit down, because the work was never finished. But here Jesus has sacrificed once for all and has completed the work, and now he is sitting down by the father. The Work is done, Jesus has made grace simple.
I have an illustration of how life with Jesus works.
I have two volunteers. And they are going to answer the questions in their envelopes, and who ever gets through their envelope the fastest will receive a cash prize. But they have to ask themselves deal or no deal
Now I’m going to set a maximum time on this. You can pass on a question if you want to come back to it. Alright. Let’s start with you. (the difficult questions)
1. Define Substitutionary Atonement, and give three scripture verses to support it.
2. Please explain how the members of the trinity compliment and submit to each other
3. Explain Verbal Plenary Inspiration?
4. What was sacrificed first the Bull or the goat?
5. What is the Hebrew name for the Day of Atonement?
Alright and now for you
1. What is your name?
2. Who is Jesus?
3. How can you receive forgiveness from sin?
4. Do you trust in Jesus?
5. What did you have for breakfast?
See what we did here? One set of questions was pretty difficult, and really there was no way to answer the questions accurately in the time allotted. The other set of questions was simple and easy. So when it comes to grace, what I’m trying to say is that God has made it simple for us. We don’t have to get two goats and a bull and sacrifice, them, we don’t have to do all the other sacrifices that the Law talks about, all we need to do is turn to Jesus.
Through Jesus, God has simplified grace for us.
BUT and this is a big But.
Just because Grace is Simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy.
One of the hardest things that we will ever do is admit that we need grace. Like I said at the beginning sin is everyone’s problem but it’s hard to say that yes, I need Jesus. Because Jesus changes us and we don’t necessarily want to change. We don’t like the idea of not being our own man or our own woman. And we don’t like to admit our own failures
The hardest step on the path of faith is the first one. It’s not that you have to memorize the Bible and know all the right prayers before you can experience God’s grace, but it’s just so hard to submit to God’s grace. Because you know that it is going to change you, you know people might look at you differently.
But you weigh all the difficulties of trying to work your way into God’s favor, and then look at how Jesus came and simplified all of the steps to earn God’s favor and said, if you Believe what I tell you and follow me, you never have to earn God’s favor because I’ve done all the work for you, I died for you, I laid down my perfect life, for your imperfect one, you don’t have to strive and struggle to pay for your sins, I’ve done it all. You just have one step.”
It’s simple but it isn’t easy. That one step is the most difficult step of your life.
One of the reasons that it is so difficult is because, we have so much baggage about who we think God is and who Jesus is, and we don’t want to let all that baggage go, because we then have to admit that we were wrong, we were misguided.
If that’s you and you’re here with Baggage of preconceived ideas, then I just want to encourage you to let down that baggage. Let it go, lay it down. Look to Jesus, and find out who he truly is, not who your philosophy professor told you he is, or what some book written thousands of years later says they think he is. I think Dr. Heugel reminded us well last week that the Gospels really are the best source to find out who Jesus really is. The da Vinci Code is an exciting story but don’t try to figure Jesus out by that book. Look to the gospels and see who Jesus really is. Lay down your baggage. I’m telling, you you’re not going to miss it. You’re not going to want to get it back. You’ll be done with it.
You look at the disciples and when Jesus called them to follow they dropped everything and followed him. And it’s not about mindless following, but they gave up so much to follow Jesus, If jesus asked us to do that, that would be very, very difficult.
This pictures is of a Marathon. And that’s really the Christian life isn’t it? The premise is pretty simple, Run, but man it’s not easy. Grace is like that, take one step and then another and keep following after Jesus. Who usually wins Marathons? Skinny Kenyans, they don’t have any extra weight holding them down and they just run. What if we as Christians in our Faith Marathon, dropped the weight that slows us down and just ran after Jesus? Man I think I read that somewhere:
Hebrews 12:1-3 — Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our Eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the Joy set before him endured the cross, scorning it’s shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Just because Grace is Free, doesn’t mean it’s Cheap
This is so important, I was deeply impacted by a book called The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. And the basic premise of this book is that Grace is free but it costs you everything.
By saying that grace costs you everything I am not saying that you have to pay for it. The cost that I’m talking about is the change in your life. If you come and pray a prayer and don’t allow Jesus to shape your life, then you have cheap grace. You need to break that off. Grace needs to permeate your whole life. It needs to work it’s way into everything you do, how you think, how you live, how you talk, how you treat others. In Order for Grace to be effective in your life it needs to transform you, and you have to let it.
And it’s not an overnight thing, if you just came to Jesus, and you had some anger problems, that isn’t necessarily going to go away right away, it can, but it can also take years, and that’s okay. It’s okay to let your transformation be a process. But it’s got to cost you something. Grace has to infiltrate your whole life. Paul in the Romans 12 says:
Therefore, I urge you brothers,in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God — this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not Conform any longer to the ways of the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
That’s the cost, we are to lay ourselves down, and then Jesus will transform us. The word transformed here in the greek is acutally saying, be being transformed. Let God keep working on you, and you will become more and more like his Son Jesus.
From the very beginning sin had a cost, there was always a sacrifice to cover over sin, and Jesus did the physical sacrifice for our sins, but we need to be willing to lay down our lives and follow after him.
It’s absolutely free, we can’t buy it, but it costs us everything.
But in Jesus grace is simple, grace is free. We don’t have to rely on the high priest to go and perform his role, we don’t have to worry if the guy did it wrong, no. We have Jesus who completed the work and is now sitting down by the father and all we have to do to experience that grace is to say yes we need it and we want God’s grace.
It’s simple but not easy, it’s free but it’s not cheap, and it’s available to you today. It’s available to your friends and family who don’t know Jesus. It’s this grace, this forgiveness of sin that is the cornerstone of the entire Church around the world. It’s this grace that should wake us up in the morning because Jesus has given us one more day to serve him, one more day to glorify him. One more day to tell about this grace.
Do you want it? Are you living in it? Are you telling others about this simple grace?