February 21st 2009

We Need Jesus First Before We Can Change

“Now the Jewish Passover was at hand, and many from the country went up to Jerusalem in order that they might purify and consecrate themselves before the Passover.”
John 11:55 AMP

Do rituals make repentance real?

In preparation for Easter some churches participate in Lent, a 40 day period of voluntary prayerful self-denial patterned on the 40 days Christ spent in the desert before being tempted by Satan. Some people “de-leaven”, a custom, taken in part from Exodus 12:15, which implies casting out sin before commemorating the last supper Christ took with his disciples. The Jews had traditions of purification to get themselves ready for their Passover, which was, for the people of the physical nation of Israel, a special vigil and night to be solemnly observed because it was a reminder of when they were brought out of the land of Egypt following the plague of the death of the firstborn (Exodus 12:42).

Rituals, however, do not cleanse the believer from sin. The truth is that, although believers may opt to practice these ideas and others like them in a sincere desire to focus on God, we cannot purify or consecrate ourselves through religious observances. Only Jesus can do that for us through the Holy Spirit.

In writing to the Corinthians Paul explains that they, like us, were once steeped in ungodly behaviour. “In the past,” he says, “some of you were like that, but you were washed clean. You were made holy, and you were made right with God in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11 NIV). How does God wash us clean? The “blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7 NIV). To suggest that we need to cleanse ourselves ceremonially or legalistically before remembering Christ’s sacrifice seems out of order because it is his sacrifice that cleanses us. Effective personal change is not possible by dint of our own efforts or rituals, but it is possible only through Christ who died for and lives in us.

The Jews at the time of Christ did not understand any of these things. They did not know that the reality of the Passover was not a calendar date or an event, but it was to be Jesus himself. “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7 NIV). They did not know that Jesus would give “his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people” (Titus 2:14 NIV).

Eternal God, we know that we cannot change ourselves with lasting effect. Only you know us and only you can change us spiritually and effectively. Thank you for your Son who died for us and who, through his death and resurrection, has cleansed us and restored us to you.

Study by James Henderson

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