About the third or fourth time reading the Gospels and comparing each writer’s interpretation of the Cross to the Exodus event, I caught it: Jesus’ sacrifice at the Cross did far more than I had imagined.
Here’s one of the factors that helped me “see” it…
One of the authors I was reading side-by-side with the Scripture posed what seemed like a simple question: “Where did Jesus redeem us…?”
The obvious answer was this: “At the Cross.”
That’s what I was studying, the Cross. That's what I was reading about. That’s the centerpiece of the Christian faith. It’s the event that changed all of history. “The Cross” is always the right answer, it seems.
The authors of several books I was reading at that time suggested that Jesus didn’t just redeem us at the Cross, though. I know. Bold statement.
Here’s their line of reasoning:
Rewind and review the second point. Since we’re redeemed by the blood, we’re set free at each place Jesus bled. That’s what the word redeem means— “to set free.” How and where Jesus bled actually reveals something as to the freedom(s) He grants us.
Peter says that we are redeemed by the blood of Jesus (1 Peter 1:18-19). He doesn’t say that we are redeemed “at the Cross.”
Yes, it’s easy to just assume that he’s writing about the Cross. But, when we read the text we see something greater happening. We are redeemed by the blood that Jesus shed at the Cross- and during the events surrounding the Cross.
Think about the blood of Jesus for a moment, and all of the places we see it in the Bible. He bled in seven unique places.
Jesus literally shed all of His blood- all of His blood for all of your redemption.
This doesn't minimize the work of the Cross at all. Rather, it amplifies it. Understanding the full scope of what Jesus did for us is like plugging the victory declared from the Cross into an amplifier. Jesus bled at (at least) seven distinct places- not just one- and each place brought another degree of redemption with it.
Throughout the Bible, numbers are important. For instance…
Now about the number seven—
When we read that Jesus bled in seven distinct areas, we see that His redemption- the freedom He gifts us- is all encompassing…
Remember that word sozo, that word we generally translated as “saved” even though it means so much more?
A redemption magnified by seven is kind of like that. There’s nothing omitted, nothing left remaining that could possibly be added to it. It denotes total freedom with absolute certainty.
Here's what I mean. Think back to the places Jesus bled. Let’s talk about what was actually happening in each of these instances.
It’s all so complex- yet it’s profoundly clear at the same time. Once you see the pattern, you can’t un-see it. And you realize that Jesus wasn’t just “fixing” the sin problem; Jesus was creating total redemption, complete freedom. That is, Jesus not only offers us a “clean slate” from the clutter and misdeeds of our pasts, He invites us to a new way of life, the path we were designed to walk from the beginning.
As I studied these concepts I began to see that there are rumblings of radical redemption all throughout the Bible, this idea that Jesus didn’t just bleed in one place but bled in multiple places. Scripture reference after Scripture reference pointed to the fact that Jesus would bleed in this way- bringing complete freedom to His people. He would gift them- and grant us- a new identity. A total makeover.
For instance, “the first occurrence of the shedding of blood was in the Garden of Eden when God sacrificed an animal or animals to provide a covering for humanity’s shame.” Whereas they made coverings of fig leaves for themselves, God provided them tunics from animals- by the shedding of blood. It all pointed to the fact that whereas man could not atone for his own shortcomings or cover his own sin in his own effort, the Lord would vigorously do so for man by blood sacrifice.
Furthermore, God didn’t just cover their sin, He graciously covered their shame. The fig leaves they gathered would have wilted within a day.
This episode proves interesting on many levels. We know that Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord after their sin. However, the Lord still came walking to meet with them in the cool of the day- as He had on all other days before that point. God still pursued connection with His people even after the Fall (see Genesis 3:8f.).
“God can’t have anything to do with sinners,” I was taught. “He’s too holy.” It was the “party” line, this notion that our sin was somehow a problem for God.
That’s not what the Bible shows us, though. Rather, the Bible reveals a God who loved Adam and Eve so much that He removed them from the Garden so that they would not eat of the Tree of Life and live in a state of sin forever (see Genesis 3:22).
Grace evicted them from Eden.
Furthermore, God followed them out of the Garden. He continued revealing Himself to their sons, Cain and Abel, speaking to them audibly and clearly. Even post-Fall, they lived in His presence.
Think about it- the only reason we know God now is because He continued pursuing His image bearers outside of the Garden of Eden. He never abandoned them. He fought for relationship and redemption. God actively pursued oneness with His people from the time of Creation until the time of Christ.
After reading the previous chapter, you know the kind of people that were most comfortable around Jesus, right?
Yeah, the “unclean” people.
Post-Fall, humankind began offering sacrifices as an act of worship and homage. Through they existed before the giving of the Law, Moses detailed specific instructions as to how each offering should be made— including when, why, and how.
Each of the sacrifices in the Old Testament pointed to Jesus as their ultimate fulfillment. The priests cared for the sacrificial elements in specific ways. They sprinkled everything with blood seven times (see Leviticus 4:17, 14:7, 16:14, 16:19; Numbers 19:4).
Remember how many places Jesus shed His blood?
Several commentators also look to the “seven-fold blessing” of the Blood of Jesus in Psalm 103:1-5:
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul;
And all that is within me,
bless His holy name!
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits:
3 Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
4 Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness
and tender mercies,
5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
I studied what the Psalmist may have been saying about the various benefits- and I compared them with what I had read about the blood of Jesus.
I sketched what I was learning into a chart. Of course, when you change the order of each of these, placing the verses from Psalm 103 into the same order in which we see the passion narrative of Jesus unfold, we see that David says the same things that the Gospel writers have penned.
The reality is that grace and redemption are relevant to all people at all times. We never go wrong simply sticking with the simplicity of Christ (see 2 Corinthians 11:3).
Whereas God appeared to Moses and told him, “I will redeem My people in the near future” (Exodus 6:6), the Gospel writers now look back at the work of Jesus and remind us that the total work of redemption is complete.
I often thought that more information, better book studies, or even a certain experience could propel me to deeper levels in my Christian walk. Perhaps you feel- or have felt- the same.
But, when you realize how much your Heavenly Father loves you- when you see the expression of His love on the Cross- you receive an empowerment to live the very life you are created and called to live. It, somehow, simply bubbles forth, overflowing from you. It’s already inside of you, simply waiting to be seen.
You have a new identity because of the Cross. The danger is that you’ll go look in the mirror and be convinced that what you think you see is the complete truth. Over the next few pages we’ll be discussing who you are instead. And once you see your true identity, freedom emerges naturally.
Let me elaborate on that previous sentence for a moment- the idea that the life you’re called to live just automatically flows…
Pastors and theologians regularly remind us that there are two essentials for living a life that pleases God:
Now, don't freak out- I'm not about to require something or place a religious burden on you. In fact, I think the beauty of both of these items is completely missed when we reduce them to legalism.
Both faith and obedience are the results of feeling loved- not the result of a decision to act more spiritual or religious. That is, they aren't the causes, the things which make God love us (as some people actually teach). Rather, both emerge naturally when we sense how loved we are. They are both effects of seeing the Father's heart for you.
Let me show you what I mean.
First, faith is essential to please God. Hebrews 11:6 tell us this plainly:
“Without faith it is impossible to please God...”
However, we often forget that faith itself actually works by love (see Galatians 5:6). Or, to say it another way, Love creates faith.
You see, love is what makes faith “work,” for love builds trust. And, of course, faith and trust are close synonyms. You could actually say that faith is trust and trust is faith.
Think about it…
When someone loves us and we truly feel loved, we begin trusting that person- a little at first, then more. Over time, we manifest an assurance that we can offer ourselves wholly to them. In time, we feel “free” when we’re with them.
Think about your kids…
My kids trust me. Yours trust you.
The opposite is probably not true. My kids don’t trust you; yours don’t trust me.
In a word, relationship.
Psychologists say this trust is developed in the first six to twelve months of life. It works like this….
Psychologists actually have a name for this: the trust cycle.
If the trust cycle “works" for a kid, they learn to begin trusting people more and more. When you see healthy, well-adjusted kids you see the fruit of a healthy trust cycle.
(The opposite is true, too. When those needs aren’t met, youngsters have trouble adjusting. The world doesn’t feel safe to them, and they develop psychological and relational issues.)
This is how faith works with God…
When we see, sense, and feel His love… well… trust rises. Faith grows. And God is pleased.
Is He pleased because we manufactured a certain level of faith?
No, of course not. God isn’t concerned with us striving to love Him more. Rather, He’s interested in us encountering His love. And He's pleased because of our experience of the relationship. He’s pleased because we’ve received and confirmed His love. Faith is simply an overflow of His love in action. It all starts because of His love.
John writes, “This is love: not that we love God but that He loved us” (1 John 4:10).
You see, God started the cycle. Our faith and trust in Him is a result of His overwhelming love.
Second, the Bible also tells us obedience is also essential to please God. The Bible also clearly states that if we love Jesus then we will keep His commandments- and, by doing so, we will abide in His love (see John 15:10).
I’ll be honest. Over a decade ago , I taught this one from the angle of, “If you love God, you’ll prove it!”
(Geez… I am so sorry if you’re one of my recipients of that message.)
Let’s evaluate this from the healthy side, OK?
We don’t manufacture obedience in order to earn God's pleasure any more than we artificially create love and affection. Rather, the Bible explains that when we receive a revelation of God’s love, it actually compels us to obey Him (1 John 5:2-3, 2 Corinthians 5:14).
In the same way that love creates trust… which creates faith… well… obedience happens naturally when a relational connection is made with a Father whom we see truly has our best interest at heart.
You can understand this concept better by thinking about your relationship with your kids, as well. My kids obey me because they trust me… and they trust me because, well… they feel loved. Works the same for you.
(In fact, you may have picked up on something we've noticed… when kids feel unloved, they start acting crazy. They do anything to get attention- even rebelling!)
It’s interesting that Jesus, who lived and loved in perfect relationship with the Father, suggested that we look at parent-child relationships to get a glimpse of how God loves us. His admonition is that God always does even better than what we know to be a beautiful example of love and trust and obedience…
“If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father…?” Jesus asked (Matthew 7:11).
Just as we are more prone to endear ourselves to the wishes and desires of those who have given much to us personally (because we feel loved so much that our trust level is high), the Bible shows us that it is God’s love for us that motivates a like desire in us to follow Him.
Again, there are two essentials to “please God,” according to Scripture:
But each of these are the results (the effects) of encountering God’s love and good pleasure— not the causes of His love. That is, faith and obedience are the results of feeling loved- not the result of a decision to be more spiritual or religious.
Furthermore, following Him causes us to feel more of His presence, causing us to feel more loved, causing us to follow Him more wholeheartedly, causing us to feel more of His presence, causing us to feel more loved, causing us to follow.
In other words, that trust cycle keeps spinning, moving us into a tighter and tighter experience of His glory (see 2 Corinthians 3:18).
Some people try to manufacture both faith and obedience. However, we can’t produce either one (long-term) aside from relationship. Both spring forth spontaneously when we sense what the Lord has done for us.
Though we’ve just described how things should work, that’s not the experience of many people. In general, the church acts like fear is a greater motivator than love- that legalistic rules are better at helping people “walk out” the Christian life than overwhelming and relentless grace.
You’ve heard the sermons—
The Bible tells us that perfect love removes fear (1 John 4:18). It eliminates fear. Fear is no longer part of the equation. This means that a Gospel preached from the heart of the Father has no semblance of fear in it.
You see, both of the vital ingredients of the Christian life are fueled by love. Love motivates. This is, perhaps, why Paul wrote that the greatest gift the church could exercise is love. And why none of the gifts we carry matter without it.
Notice, we’re back full circle to the very place we began- our reason for teaching these truths at The Dream Center several years ago: people need to know-
Love is the starting point, the cause. Everything else is overflow.
It is my prayer that over the next few pages you will see the great depths of our Father’s love for you- and see the incredible comprehensive work of Jesus at the Cross. When you do, yourealize that your best life doesn't start after you die.
Jesus proposed, “I’ve come that you might have life… a life that’s more abundant” (John 10:10).
In other words, true life begins now.
To see the video the "tiny house" click here:
To listen to the episode on perfect love, go here:
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