“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.”
In the days of the Old Testament, before Jesus was born, the concept of forgiveness was a lot different than it is now. As Christians, we have the privilege of living with the assurance that our sins can be, and in fact already have been, forgiven by Jesus through his sacrifice on the cross. So what about the people that lived before Jesus? How did they receive forgiveness?
The answer, as many of you already know, is by making sacrifices to God. In order to atone for the sins that someone committed, they had to go to the temple and make a sacrifice, usually an animal. Now, this wasn’t just any animal. Sacrifices required the very best of a person’s livestock, which was no small price to pay.
You may have heard the phrase, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than for permission.” Well when forgiveness cost you the very best of your livelihood, that phrase doesn’t apply as much. You see, before Jesus, sin cost something tangible to the Israelites. In order to be right with God, they had to sacrifice something of their own. It cost them dearly. Unfortunately, no animal could ever truly atone for the punishment our sin deserves. No sacrifice would ever be enough. That’s why Jesus came, God in the flesh, to sacrifice himself, to take the punishment we deserved.
But sometimes we take forgiveness for granted. Just because it doesn’t cost us anything tangible and immediate, we sin over and over and simply “ask for forgiveness” without changing. We’re more interested in letting God do the work of forgiving than doing the work ourselves of living right and just lives. God takes no pleasure in your sin, in fact, he hates all sin. Luckily, he loves us enough to forgive us for all things, but why should we live our lives asking for forgiveness rather than working toward righteousness.
God will always be more pleased with your acts of justice and righteousness than with sin and half-hearted repentance. We should work to live holy and blameless lives, not just to live however we want and look for forgiveness later.
Paul says in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?”
If we are indeed Christ followers, we can’t simply continue living in sin. We can’t just keep on sinning against God assuming that grace will abound. If we truly are in Christ, then we have died to our sin and live for ourselves no longer, but for Christ. If that were the case, how could we be content to live in sin? It’s not possible. Don’t get me wrong, God gives us grace upon grace. None of us will ever be perfect and we will always need his forgiveness. But remember, God takes more pleasure in celebrating your success than forgiving your failure.
Thank you for the promise of salvation and the assurance of forgiveness that we have through Jesus. I pray that we would not take this forgiveness for granted and continue living in sin. Please help us to live and act with justice and righteousness and to constantly strive for holiness.
In Jesus’ Name,