The Plan for When Laws Get Broken
Not keeping God’s Law is serious. Sin is messy and the cost of sin is huge – like something-dies-huge. God gave us a way to escape being the unfortunate thing that died, something pure and innocent –a lamb that takes away the sin of the world.
If you’ve been tracking with us in this series you’ll know that we’ve said the biggest consequence of sin is broken relationship – both with God and with other people. God made covenants with people as a way to rescue those relationships and the Law was there to show people what they needed to do to keep their side of the Covenant. Just like any other covenant of the day there were blessings for keeping the agreement and a list of ‘curses’ for not keeping it.
You could call it an inspired guess or probably more like divine knowledge, but one way or the other God was pretty sure that people in general weren’t going to be the best covenant keepers. That episode with the snake and the apple was a bit of a give-away…
Not keeping the law was serious – probably a lot more serious than we like to think. Sin is messy and the cost of sin is huge – like something-dies-huge. Back then, for those times, God gives people a way to escape being the unfortunate thing that died:
‘…the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life…’ (Leviticus 19v11-12)
Atonement is a multi-layered concept but it may be helpful to think of it as at-one-ment. Atonement was bringing people back to being one, or right, with God and each other after sin had done its destructive thing.
So God provides a way to to deal with the consequences of not keeping the Law. He does that by introducing animal sacrifices in the Old Testament. They were a costly, gory, painful solution to and visual reminder of the effect of sin, both on the guilty and the innocent. The writer of Hebrews in the New Testament tells us that ‘without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.’ (Hebrews 9v22).
Skip forward a thousand years or so and we come across a scene in John chapter 1 where we get our first glimpse of Jesus. John the Baptist recognises him and says:
‘Look, the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’ (John 1v29).
If you were listening back then and knew your Scriptures you would be gob smacked at what John had just said, especially that he seemed to be referring to a person, that guy over there…
Lambs played a big role in the culture of Israel and the story of God’s relationship rescue plan. There were six ways lambs were symbolic for the people back then:
1) A lamb was a symbol of power and conquest in Jewish thought.
2) In Isaiah 53v7 there’s a lamb that is led to the slaughter for our healing
‘He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter’
3) In Exodus 12v13 blood from the Passover lamb will protect the family inside that house from death
‘The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.’
4) In Leviticus 16v 21-22 a goat (ok, almost a lamb…) became a ‘scapegoat’ that would carry off the sins of the people.
‘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. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place; and the man shall release it in the desert.’
5) In Leviticus 4v32 – a spotless, perfect lamb was sacrificed on an altar to take away the sins of the people – its blood was able to cover over everything the people had done wrong.
6) In Genesis 22 God provides a lamb for Abraham to sacrifice instead of his son Isaac. The lamb is killed in Isaac’s place and allows Isaac to live
There’s a seventh lamb we haven’t seen yet. In Revelation 5 it’s a lamb that takes center stage:
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honour and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped
When John the Baptist sees Jesus this is what he’s really saying: Look! Here’s a ‘lamb’ who will one day conquer and destroy evil; who will be killed to bring healing to us; whose blood will keep us safe from death; who will carry off our sins and deal with them permanently; who will be become the one that dies for sin instead of us. And yes, this is the person who will one day be worshipped by every creature in heaven and earth.
This painting that Francisco de Zurbaran painted of a sacrificial lamb is helpful in some ways, but can also demonstrate the safe, comfortable ways we can slip into when it comes to thinking about the sin in our life. The Old Testament rituals of sacrifice were brutal reminders of the ugly, messy cost of sin.
“Oergh! TAKE IT AWAY! I don’t want to look at that!” Exactly. That is the point. When we confront the reality of sin, we are reminded how completely destructive and hurtful it is.
The Lamb who was slain has made a way to deal with the horror of sin. Jesus is our one source of hope that we will be ‘at one’ with God, each other and ourselves again and set free from the curse of sin in our lives.
In this tab you’ll find ideas and questions to help you lead your group through an interactive, story-based journey. Our leaders guide has more info on how to use our Story-based framework.
Download a PDF version of this session here
What comes to mind when you hear the word, ‘sin’?
If there was a continuum of sin that ranged from ‘My sin makes me feel so bad, I feel guilty all the time’ all the way to ‘I rarely think about my sin at all. It’s not a big deal’, where do you think you would be on there?
And do you have any idea at all why Jesus had to “die on the cross for my sin?” Do you ever feel like that relates to you personally at all?
Get the conversation started …
Get everyone to check out the WordSpace posts from this week on their phones or from a printout (you’ll find them in the next tab.)
o Is there a post that stands out for you? Why so?
o Is there something in a post that raises a question for you? What is that?
o If you had to choose one post to share with a friend, which one would it be?
Read the post in The Story tab.
Some questions to help you replay your story …
o Was there one thing stood out for you most from what you heard in this session?
o If you identified yourself as either too hard or too soft on sin, was there anything in today’s session that helped you move to a more balanced view of it?
o Are there any parts that seem like really good news? Anything that’s hard to believe?
Re – draw your picture of Jesus
How does thinking about the way Jesus fulfilled all those ways a lamb (or goat) help you re-imagine what Jesus is like?
Read that passage from Revelation 5 again. Does that inspire you to join in with everyone else worshipping Jesus?
What practical action, response,or new way of thinking do you need to take into the week?
Have you encountered something about the impact of sin that makes you want to say to God: ‘wow, I’ve kind of not been dealing with the sin in my life the way I probably should be … Help me see it for what it is and rely more on your mercy and grace….
Jesus invites us to repent often and with freedom. It’s a real gift from God – go for it!
Some questions to help you remix your story …
o James 5.16 says, ‘Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.’ Often speaking out your sins and failings can help beat the power they have over you. Is there someone you can think of who you trust enough to do this with?
o Knowing the badness of our sin is so important because it helps us to appreciate the goodness of His gift. If we get stuck on either the badness of our sin [too much guilt] or the goodness of His gift [no realisation of seriousness of sin] then we will have an unbalanced relationship with God? How might you need to change the way you view the sin in your life?
o How do you think the understanding of ‘being ‘at one’ or right with God’ will affect the way you view yourself and the way you live life from day to day?
From the WordSpace
Here are six posts from the WordSpace we’ve posted specially to tie in with this topic:
Wrath. Now there’s a scary word – especially if it’s God we’re talking about… Uncontrolled fury, random acts of anger and destruction. That’s not what God is supposed to be like right?
What if we imagined God’s ‘wrath’ as a controlled, steady, relentless opposition towards everything that’s unjust or evil? Might make a bit more sense? What if God saw US as unjust and evil and deserving of his wrath? Very scary thought!
What if Jesus knew that he would face God’s wrath for all of us – instead of us – for three hours on the cross? That was so scary Jesus begged God to not let that happen (Mark 14v35-36).
On the cross Jesus experienced and saved us from God’s wrath. It’s done, finished. Scary? Amazing?
Read Romans 3v21-26 http://goo.gl/Tl6qBq
Can we become too familiar with your cross, Jesus? After all, we wear crosses around our necks; they hang on the side of church buildings and they’re printed on the front of our bibles? There’s nothing comfortable about what you did on the cross, Jesus. Shame, humiliation, nakedness, rejection, abandonment, agony, separation.
Help me to experience these things too: shame at my sin that hung you on your cross; humility at the love you showed; safe and accepted as I bare myself to you; rejecting the temptations the world throws at me; and separation, being completely set aside for you. Help me to embrace the ‘discomfort’ of knowing you!
Remember. Remember how the Son of God was beaten; Remember how through the Whips & Chains, Blood & Pain, He thought of Nothing less but the love he had for Us. Remember that He was Pierced by our Rebellion, & Crushed by our Sins.
Please remember, That the Lord laid on Him, the Sins of us All, & He carried that cross upon his shoulders. With Bleeding flesh, & broken bones, He was unjustly condemned & Led away & All for OUR Salvation. All for Our Forgiveness, All for our Rebellious Hearts.
Could there EVER be a love Greater than this?
Inspired by Isaiah 53 ( http://bit.ly/16QSwTf )
People talk about forgiving and forgetting, but I find it really hard sometimes, maybe even impossible. Is that bad? ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.’ (Psalm 103vs12 – read it here: http://bit.ly/1eQnPon)
If we believe that God knows everything, then how is it possible that He forgets our sins? Does He develop some kind of spiritual amnesia? I don’t believe so. In fact I think it is so much more powerful if God, remembering my sins, chooses not to hold them against me.
When God looks at me, He now sees Jesus and the sacrifice He made on the cross and treats me as if I have never committed any of those sins. When I ask for forgiveness, I can rest assured that it is freely given.
What would it take to really believe that?
A long time ago in a galaxy (not that) far, far away … The ancient ways forgotten, the universe is gripped by evil with a deceiver on the throne.
A prophecy of hope …
A young man, born of a virgin, destined to restore the cosmic order.
A faithful mentor who prepares him for the struggles he’ll face growing into his long-prophesied destiny.
His temptation to the Dark Side and duel with an evil opponent in the desert.
The Spirit who guides and empowers Him.
The Father who is pleased with His Son.
is ultimate sacrifice that brings restoration and frees the oppressed
No, this is not the story of Anakin Skywalker, it’s about Jesus Christ. Experience it NOW in a Bible near you!
Every Easter, we remember it as a time when Jesus died on the cross. The cross was an instrument of torture created for the enemies for Rome. It was designed to cause suffering.
Do you ever think how strange it is that Christians use the symbol of the cross as a piece of art and jewellery? If Jesus had stood in front of a firing squad, would we all wear golden guns? And what if the electric chair had been around?
While it may seem crazy when we think about it that way, it may help to switch focus from what the cross did to Jesus to what it did to us. Our sin. Our death sentence. And yet Jesus takes our place. He performs the role of scapegoat, the one who bears the sins of the entire nation, or in our case, world.
Then suddenly the cross takes on a whole different meaning because now it is a reminder of the gift of Love that God demonstrated by sending Jesus for us. A memorial to His death so to speak.
And so when we look at the cross, we try not so much to remember the suffering it caused for Jesus, but the freedom from suffering that it won for each of us who chooses to follow Him.
Read an account of his death and final words here – http://bit.ly/1mb3vO2