Jesus said in Mark 7:6-8 "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written; 'These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."
Some days a Bible verse just smacks you in the face, you know? I wonder how many times my voice joined the choir to support rules taught by men rather than God's commands. I shudder to consider it, and yet today it's my very salvation that is being brought to mind.
When I received salvation, it was after I'd repented. Repentance is sort of "old fashioned," isn't it? But we all must start there, right? I had to accept that my sins are worthy of bloodshed. Red, warm, painfully drawn and spilled blood. A life was given - brutally - because that was required to cover my sins before God. A sin offering.
No matter how my heart breaks for those who are tortured in their lives on this planet, or volunteer to ease someone's suffering, I can't earn God's forgiveness by doing a lot of good stuff - not even the stuff that He himself has told us to do. If I stand in my contemporary church service and lift my hands and eyes to heaven as I sing, "How Great Is Our God," it doesn't cover me in righteousness... no matter how much awe is flooding through me, my sins are not covered by an exceptionally high level of emotion.
Someone innocent of all my sins was beaten, crucified and bled out for those sins. Why? Why can't I just love people, love the idea of a gentle and tender God, sing emotionally uplifting songs of worship and call it a beautifully spiritual (not religious... religious is a bad word, right?) and blessed day in the life of a Christian?
Because God is Holy. He doesn't compromise on sin. I don't get a pass for 5 sins because I purchased sin credits with exceptionally loving behavior. Oh, this is flying in the face of all those rules taught by people... by Christian people. God is loving. Yes. Restoring? Yes. But restoration is taking something in poor condition and restoring it to a valuable condition. This wasn't done by a big hug, a pat on the head and a comforting "It's OK."
A price was paid for our restoration. It was done with the body of God's Holy son. God didn't turn his back on holiness to be able to accept me. He provided a sin offering so I could turn my back on those sins and once that blood covered them, I would be cleansed from their stain - grateful for the mercy... not pretend that it wasn't all that dirty.
Do I carry that message? Do I forget the powerful experience of that first cleansing of my soul? Do I downplay the beauty of holiness so that I honor God with my lips but not an obedient heart? Do I worship people (the creation), bowing to a resistance to submitting ego and self esteem in repentance, rather than worshiping the creator and His Truth?
Sin killed Jesus. It isn't harmless or unimportant. Sometimes I think I've become comfortable with some sin in order to be comfortable in our culture. But Jesus bled for those sins. I share the love part of my faith, but I'm not very quick to share that my faith began with submission and repentance.
Wow. It just got real.
Yes, we've all been called to love and serve the hungry, imprisoned, lonely, sick and don't forget .... LOST. How can they have hope for a clean soul if they're shielded from testimony of our repentance? Precious things are rare or expensive. Salvation is precious. It was very expensive. It isn't easy to get, just because we don't have to shed blood. We have to submit our pride, bowing to a Holy God.
I'm certainly not implying we're all called to live in the wilderness in animal skins like John the Baptist and shout "Repent" at people who walk by. Though, as uncomfortable as we may be with that - God has called someone to do just that at least once, hasn't he? But we don't have the authority to change the message that repentance is required for salvation. We don't get to tweak it to be easier or less dramatic. Being saved by someone else's death is nothing if not dramatic.