You know those moments where God just turns a divine spotlight on your soul and allows you to see things in yourself that you were completely unaware of?
I had one of these moments a few months ago, and I was undone. It was an average day, and I was waiting in the car to pick up my preschooler. As I waited, my sister called me, and we began chatting about our morning. At one point in the conversation, she shared with me what she had been reading in the Old Testament. She had been learning about the sacrificial system.
She told me that in the Old Testament, atonement for sin was a two step process. You had to repent/confess your sin to God, and then make an animal sacrifice on an altar. Once you did those two things, you would have atonement for your sin. So, repentance plus sacrifice equals atonement/forgiveness. But then she said that in the New Testament, in Hebrews 10, we are told that Christ’s sacrifice was the last one. There is no more need for a sacrifice on that altar. “For by one sacrifice, He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Heb 10:14). So today, for a believer who sins, it is a one step process. Repentance equals forgiveness. There is no “sacrifice” step in the equation anymore because Jesus did that. It is done. It does not have to be repeated. We just repent, and it’s over. The sacrifice has already been made.
I kept thinking about that after we hung up. I thought about that as I picked up my daughter. I thought about it later after I laid the little ones down for a nap. And then, God showed me my own heart. I cried like I have not cried in years. He showed me a person who has sinned deeply, but has repented deeply. And yet, instead of freedom and joy, I often carried this suffocating burden of shame and guilt. And He offered to take that away, but I would not let Him have it, or if I did, I would pick it right back up after a while and start carrying it again. Why? Because it was my lamb. Somehow, something in me thought that if I let this go, if I truly walked in shame free, guilt free forgiveness, then I was getting off the hook. Somehow I thought that if I carried this painful burden, and essentially refused to feel forgiven, I was offering that to God as some kind of small sacrifice, some small measure of atoning for my sin. He gently showed me that there is no atoning for my sin. I could punish myself for the rest of my life and it would contribute literally nothing to the price that was paid for my sin. We cannot atone for our own sin. We cannot right the wrong that we have done. Paul explained this to the Galatians. “After after starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” Gal.3:3.
So I let my lamb go. And I have rarely felt a weight lift off of my heart like I did that day. And I cried, and I raised my completely empty hands and offered a sacrifice of praise to the Lamb of God. So if any of you are like me, and are carrying around a lamb of your own…let him go. The altar is gone. There’s a cross in it’s place. And that sacrifice has been made forever. Atonement is already yours. It is finished.