“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:14
Yeah right. Who let this one slip into the Bible?! We all know we are not perfect. Think of the little ways (and big ways) I have missed the mark even today in the small hours. I have let anger brew. I have been short with my children. I have coveted greener grass. And these things are not just hiccups in a perfect life. They are sin, showing the marring of my flesh and disobedience. But this author of Hebrews has the nerve to tell me that I have been perfected for all time in Jesus. Blah.
As if we have a hard time accepting this, to the readers of this letter, the truth may have been more startling.
“You have got to get an idea of the shock the early believers would have felt upon reading these words. Perfected for all time? How could those words be uttered about anyone? They knew full well the sacrifices required to atone for their sin: a young bird, a goat, a bull, a spotless lamb. They were well aware that their sins weren’t some minor blemish but were serious enough that a living creature had to suffer and die. This wasn’t merely a philosophical or theological persuasion. For their unbelief, warm blood streamed onto sticky stone; because of their covetousness, animals cried out in terror. And for those who lived in Jerusalem, there was the smoke that hung continually over the temple mount. Listen to hear the bleating of the soon-silenced lamb; smell the acrid stench of burning hair and flesh; see the white robes of the high priest darkly stained. They knew their imperfections – they were lawbreakers.”
“Jesus Christ, the ultimate high priest, had accomplished what no other high priest had ever even dared to attempt. On the cross he spilled the blood of God to appease the wrath of God. This blood was so precious, being the very blood of the infinite, incarnate God, that just this one sacrifice was completely sufficient to atone for and bring to perfection all who would believe in it. Just one sacrifice was necessary to perfect them, to perfect you.”
We don’t have sacrifices anymore but we do similar things to atone for our sin. We will “try harder” or “do better next time.” We sacrifice, or give up things for lent to prove how much we love God. We make reading the Bible every day into a new law so we can feel as if we have gained our righteousness. We each have something we run to when we need only run to Jesus.
“Jesus Christ offered one sacrifice for sin and in doing so he absolutely perfected those who are (still) being changed or sanctified… The Spirit assures us that we’re absolutely perfected right now” because of the cross.
“When we spend our days in an endless pursuit of self-improvement, trying over and over again to “get our act together,” or trying to excuse our sin because, after all, “nobody’s perfect,” we are, in essence, devaluing the blood of Jesus Christ, the perfect man who is also God.”
Today we can rest and celebrate the perfection granted to us, for all of life, in Jesus.
Lenten devotion from Comforts from the Cross by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Day 11.