When my girls were small and growing up in West Michigan, they always enjoyed going to Meijer, which is a something like a Super Wal-Mart and a Super-Target combined. At Meijer they have a row of mechanical horses that only cost a penny to ride. Riding the horses was always the highlight of shopping for them. On one occasion their aunt came for a visit and brought a coffee can full of pennies and took them to Meijer just to ride the horses for an afternoon. All three of my girls are now grown adult women. They do not ride mechanical horses anymore. They now ride real live horses. As excited as they were to ride mechanical horses, my daughters now have no desire to do so because those horses were only a simulation of the real thing.
As Christians, since Christ has come as the true and real sacrifice for sin, we are no longer to be content with simulations and copies of the real deal. And we are to know the difference between them. Our forgiveness is not a simulation, not a copy or a shadow, but is real because Christ is the real thing (Hebrews 9:24-28).
When my wife and I were raising those three very active and precocious girls, we had a certain process we would go through with them when they did something wrong toward one another. We would talk about the offense, and then they would need to say the words, “I am sorry.” But the matter was never over until they hugged each other and told each other they loved the other. If they could do that, it was the real deal. You see, they could mouth the words to get us off their backs, but to hug and express love was the reality.
Jesus did not just mouth words to us of forgiveness. He secured it through his death on a cross. It is not a cheap forgiveness. It is real. Christ died a very violent death. This whole emphasis in Scripture on blood and sacrifice can be upsetting for many people. But we need to understand that our sin and disobedience is really terrible. Christ’s death reflects the horrible sin of humanity. Since Jesus has secured forgiveness for us at such a steep price, we are to receive it with much humility and a great deal of joy that God would love us so much.
Jesus Christ came to deal with the sin issue once for all through his blood. He came to do away with sin, not just veneer over it. The old sacrificial system was like whitewashing a barn – it took care of the issue for a while, but it would need to be done over and over again. Jesus is no temporary arrangement. The forgiveness he offers is permanent. There is no need to keep offering sacrifices over and over because Christ is the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. The forgiveness we possess is not like paying an annual fee and getting a forgiveness sticker for the year. In Jesus Christ, we are forgiven! And this forgiveness was purchased with Christ’s own blood.
I truly believe that what this old world needs more than anything else is forgiveness – not a cheap sentimental forgiving, but a real forgiveness that is so costly that it lasts forever and ever. A lot of religious energy can be spent trying to figure out how to make ourselves acceptable to God. But in Christ we do not need to fear the future. We have been made right with God through the death of Jesus. Through Christ’s sacrifice the doors to heaven and earth get flung wide open. The way has been secured, the trail has been blazed, and the road has been made smooth in order to come to God.
Jesus did not die on the cross and rise from the dead so that we could live ho-hum Christian lives. He has granted us forgiveness so that we will eagerly eat the Word of God and sit right up front to hear the preacher serve the meal. Jesus sacrificed himself so that we would enjoy laboring together in the gospel, looking forward to how the Spirit will transform lives through his forgiveness. The price has been paid for a real forgiveness which opens our minds and our energies to live for Jesus, the pioneer of our faith.