In our Revangelism training, we demonstrate how the gospel presentation is not always the right approach to a conversation, but sometimes it is. Therefore it’s good to have practiced it. So I ask participants to try it out and actually write out a paraphrased version of the gospel as they understand it. I find that’s very difficult even for me. For I love going deep and looking at how it all works. At the risk of being boring, I will follow all the rabbit trails my own mind goes down to explain as best I understand it, what’s the big deal about the blood of Jesus. I have not prepared for this post.
Which brings me to the full gospel. What is it anyways? And for a culture that doesn’t really believe in the existence of sin, (let alone a devil) what is the starting point? In biblical times there was a belief in God and gods across the population, and Paul and the apostles were bringing a new message. Today, we neither have a new message (in the USA), nor a standard of belief in a spiritual world. In Europe, I found that the message of Jesus was actually basically new again (my generation and younger were so far removed from christian influence they were essentially unreached).
We also demonstrate in Revangelism how it’s more than ok to return to a spiritual conversation where you didn’t know what to say. I had one such occasion in The Netherlands, when I took a friend to church with me and he asked somewhat derisively why christians were so obsessed with Jesus’ blood. It was an honest question, as some songs we sing don’t really do a good job explaining it, yet chant, “the blood, the blood,” over and over. Though I believe I did an adequate job of explaining it then, in principle, I don’t think I did a good job explaining it from a personal perspective, or in my own words, and with hindsight, I know was missing a few things. My answer was way too religiously short. I didn’t entirely know what I was saying, but regurgitating things I was told. Consequently, I think it missed the mark. This is probably more of a Gospel post, but you can’t talk about the Gospel really without talking about death, and Jesus’ blood specifically.
Knowing this, it bothered me for a while. I stumbled upon Watchman Nee’s The Normal Christian Life, and his exposition of it hit home in a few new ways, especially when he talked of the blood of Jesus.
So let’s dive in. What is the gospel and what does Jesus’ blood have to do with it?
Now, it’s crucial that we as christians acknowledge that we aren’t obsessed with blood in general or at all, but very specifically, one person’s blood, that is Jesus. Any other person’s (or animal’s – that’s a different blog) blood is no use to us, or anyone else.
I think, in order to understand what makes Jesus’ blood precious, as the old hymns declare, we really must start with a thorough understanding of God as the life-giver. So whether you believe in God or the universe or some spiritual entity beyond our reach, let’s call this thing God. When God creates everything, he breathes life into it. Life is not something that is created, it’s not a chance happenstance, it’s something that comes directly from God. Jesus also calls himself “the living one” and God in the Exodus reveals his name to Moses as “I am.” So we have bound up in God this sense of eternal existence, or life. You could say the fullness, or perfection of life is even found in God. He is the full, perfect and complete representation of it. So very simply, life comes from God. This is foundational. Everything stems from this.
God also only deals in absolutes. That is, he is not kind of, sort of, or a little bit of life, kind of the truth, or kind of the way. We can say the inverse of our life statement, that is, in the same way that all life comes from God, no life comes outside of him. There is no other way to life. There is God’s way. Life is bound up in him. Life is not God, but proceeds from God. He cannot be anything less. Colossians reiterates this in Jesus. He sustains everything. Life cannot go on outside or in spite of Him.
So now, if all of life is found in God and no life is found outside him, then, by definition, anything that can be found outside of him is less than life, or…? It starts with a “d.”
Remember God only deals in absolutes. He is absolutely holy, absolutely perfect, absolutely all the life, all the love. It’s all found in him. Look elsewhere, and you will only find life’s opposite, death, because the fullness of life is contained in and through God.
So if we as free will people want life, we find it in God. Consequently, if we choose anything other than God’s way, by definition, we are choosing death. Paul says it this way: “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Choose the ways of God, get life, choose your own ways, get corruption.
So when we choose to do things God’s way, we reap the benefits of provision that the Spirit can give, namely, life! If we sow to anything else, we reap the provision that we can provide ourselves, which unfortunately, is only death. I can’t give myself life. In fact, I’m dying everyday. I don’t keep my heart beating at night, I don’t keep my lungs inhaling and exhaling. I have very little to do with the life I have!
So when we choose God, we choose life. If we choose any thing other than God, we by definition choose less than life… or death. There’s no such thing as almost life.
So this becomes a law of life and death. Choose God, get life, choose not God get not life. You don’t have to agree with this, but it explains a lot.
Now this is a bit of a problem for us. Because if God is going to go on living, and we’re destined for dying, and all of life and love and joy and every other good thing is found in God, the life, we’re heading towards a massive separation from God (how can something dead have fellowship with something alive?). Maybe God could make it alive you might say. Hold that thought!
We can look around and see that humanity is not able to choose life as it would want to. Perhaps we can do life-giving things, but at the end of the day, we inevitably default into death behavior. Why is this? We need to introduce another being into our story.
When our great, great, great, great, (many more greats) grandfather Adam freely chose to determine right and wrong for himself, he immediately aligned himself with Satan (the devil, which simply means – the accuser), because He stopped trusting God, ergo, he started trusting something less than God.
Let’s not dwell on this, but the accuser lead a rebellion against God, and is actively working against him. His main and mostly only tatic is deception or lying. At the moment Adam joined the rebellion by choosing not-God’s-way, he and all humanity after him were corrupted and lived under the authority of our new master, the one whose lie we believed. You may say there is no devil. Fine. Nevertheless, he exists. You could say it’s the flesh, your own selfish desires, or you live to serve yourself, but in the devil’s playbook, that’s good enough because as long as you’re not living for God, you’re on Team devil, aka, Team less than God. What’s more, we must understand the reality of the accuser devil if we are to understand the blood.
So we’re all biffed and born into error, or less then. We’re essentially born into enemy territory, with corrupted bodies. This part is hard to swallow for our pride. But those who have ever found themselves in an addictive behavior get it. We don’t do the things we want to do! We can’t keep even our own standard. Don’t we say, “to err is human?” We’ve totally given up on being perfect. Why? Our genealogy. We inherited a corrupted nature. Even if we could possibly live a perfect life, it wouldn’t matter. Our default is broken.
Cue the feel good movies about rising above, conquering, etc. Nevertheless, when the movie is over, we aren’t any better than we started.
That’s not fair you say! But let me ask you, could you control where you were born? At what time? In what country? No. Nevertheless, your very life is dependent and bound up in the life of your ancestors. You exist first because of God, and second because of your ancestor’s actions, and your existence is somewhat determined by them. And good or bad, the results of those actions are passed onto you. So, we all inherited our father Adam’s propensity for poor choices.
Brief review – God is life, man has a propensity for death, and is therefor slave to death (a stronger way of saying the same thing because we keep obeying death by choosing ways that lead to it). Remember if we could stop… we would!
So man has a problem, that is death, and therefore is living willfully or unwillfully separated from God and all his life-giving goodness. What’s worse, we can’t fix it! Just read some history. If you still think we can fix it, you’re not paying attention.
But God fixed it if we would have it! He has a solution to bring us back into relationship with him and free us from our death-producing ways.
What’s his grand solution… death!
Wait what? Check it out! Paul says the wages of our error is death. So God, being just and upholding his own standard brings about death to those that deserve it. How is this helpful you say?
This is where things start to get really interesting! God sends his Son (born of a virgin – that’s important) to earth to live a perfect life and then die in the place of all humanity, who – as we already know – actually deserve death. Death was deserved for us, so God speeds up the process by putting someone in our place. Jesus! Born of a woman, for that makes him human and therefor able to qualify to take the sin of humans, and he has to live a perfect life, so that He has no error of his own to pay for – meaning God can lump all the death penalty due humanity onto him because he has no sin of his own. It’s justice – the requirement of death being paid, and mercy – someone else is paying it for us!
So now we are finally back to the blood! Through Jesus’ death on the cross, his blood shed serves as a sign of our acceptance of the gift of God of satisfied justice of the law of sin and death. How? When Jesus died, he satisfies the requirement of death placed on him for taking on the sin of the whole world, therefore he now is freed from the law of sin, however he is not free from death. He is still under the law of death, for he died to satisfy that law.
Now back to Jesus being born of a virgin. So as a human on his mom’s side, he pays for the death deserved for humans. But on his Dad’s side, he is God, begotten of the Father. God the Father raises him after 3 days (you could say He raised Himself – both are true), and thereby conquers death, and so frees Him from death. So he fulfilled the law of sin, and conquered death. For what authority can sin or death have over something that has died? None. Last time I checked, dead things don’t obey you. Dead things don’t become more dead. Price paid. Debt fulfilled. Being raised to life, he proved He was God and had power over death, and proved there was life after death, and then ascended into heaven, where he sits at the right hand of the father. I know this feels like a side track, but it’s necessary.
Now remember the whole point is to get humanity back into the presence of God (or relationship). This means we have to be taken out of the authority of the rebellion, that is, death, the devil, and sin. Now remember that God put the entirety of the sins of humanity for all time on Jesus on the cross. But not just our sins, but even our whole selves. God does something mystical when Jesus is on the cross, and he actually places the whole of humanity up there with him. Not just our sins, but us, our very beings (the sin factories we are trapped in). It all gets placed there on the cross. This may seem weird but Paul and Peter are clear about this – – we have been crucified with Christ, an historic fact. Elsewhere the Bible says we are hid with Christ. Because of this, hallelujah, we are also already dead. Wait what?
Yes, as far as God is concerned, you and I are already dead, the question is more a matter of how are we brought back to life. God bundles all this work of Jesus up into a little gift called life by faith in Jesus. We receive God’s gift of life by faith. If we believe that Jesus is God’s son and that God raised him from the dead, we receive God’s already-done-working of hiding us with Christ on the cross. It’s a gift. And it only comes through faith. How could we receive something we didn’t believe was true? I can’t receive a gift I don’t believe is there. But this gift is here! In faith, we receive the already done working of God to free us, in Jesus, from the debt we owed death and the devil through sin. When we accept the gift of life and justice and mercy of God, something amazing happens and God puts his Spirit in us, to give us His life, from the inside out. This is why Jesus says we must be reborn. He means of His Spirit. When that happens, you and I have an automatic inheritance change. We are now born of God, and share in the life of God by who we are and who He has made us alive to be! Our destiny changes from separation from God to life with God all the time, now and forever. Jesus says God makes His home with us. What an amazing thought! That God would call being with you and I… home!
What’s more, Jesus’ blood has become a covering for us. For God through Jesus and His Spirit’s residence inside us now is for us all the time. He can’t go against Himself and His self is in you! So you are accepted for all time in the presence of God, and no matter what you do, right or wrong, God the Father says, “price paid.” This is a very freeing thought indeed. As Paul says, if the creator God of the universe accepts me, who could be against me?
Because we were hid with Christ on the cross, we were also buried with him, and if we believe he is who he says he is, then we are raised to life with him, and God places his Spirit in us as the seal that indeed all this has taken place and it counts. So we get freed from our old master death, and are given the power and heritage of God – that is, a complete conversion of who we are. Once estranged, now we are sons and daughters redeemed back into God’s family. This is a pretty awesome deal, and it’s all because of Jesus’ blood which covers us and claims us as God’s. God sees us with his payment for us and says, “mine!”
What did we do to deserve it? Nothing.
What did we do to earn it? Nothing.
What’s the big deal about Christ’s blood? It justifies us by faith, allows us to enter God’s presence in boldness, allows God to put his Presence in us, satisfies any shame claim lie or charge the devil might bring against us.
It very truly frees us.
That’s something to get excited about!
Nevertheless, you can see how it’s difficult for me to adequately shorten it. But I tend to be a deep thinker. I intend to try though and revisit this and shorten it by increments. Nevertheless, a fellow Communitaser got it into a one liner this way:
“‘No matter what I do, I don’t do what I want, and yet I do the things I don’t want.’ said a famous gentleman from way back. What was his solution? Jesus. It’s hard to argue with results.”