- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 6, 2005

The following are excerpts of a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. James Ramsak at Evangelical Free Church of Manassas.

Mukhtaran Bibi may well be one of the bravest people alive on earth today.

Mukhtaran, who received no education as a child, lives in a remote village in the Punjab area of Pakistan. In 2002, a tribal council decided to punish her family by sentencing her to public sexual assault. Despite her anguished pleadings, four of her male neighbors attacked her and others joined in to carry out the sentence — under the watchful eyes of 300 fellow villagers.

This public humiliation was intended to shame Mukhtaran into committing suicide. But she somehow found the courage to live. She eventually demanded the prosecution of her attackers, six of whom were sentenced to death.

The Scripture teaches us that the annual sacrifices of atonement are “an annual reminder of sins” (Hebrews 10:3), but that the single sacrifice of Jesus causes God the Father to “remember no more” the many sins of His people.

This text teaches us that, although the sacrifices of the Old Testament were commanded by God, “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” On the contrary, the author [of Hebrews] asserts in [10:10] that “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Our author reveals to us that the basis for forgiveness lies deep beneath the cross: It hinges on the perfect obedience of Jesus to His Father’s will.

“Then [Christ] said, ‘Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, O God.’” (Verse 7)

“Then he said, ‘Here I am, I have come to do your will.’” (Verse 9)

“And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Verse 10)

And so we see that it is the obedience of Christ — His perfectly obedient life and His perfectly obedient death — that allows the work of His cross to serve as the unique means of forgiveness.

Our personal acceptance of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice opens the door for personal forgiveness and progressive holiness.

Whether our sin is the result of our own indifference toward God, or is evidence of our monstrous self-centeredness, it adds up to too great a weight of guilt for us to bear. The Bible tells us that we will perish for eternity under the load of our own moral failure, unless we turn to someone who is able to bear it in our place.

Forgiveness has been won for us through the excruciating and humiliating work of the cross. While it is given freely through exclusive faith in Jesus, it does demand the excruciating act of confessing our personal moral failure — what the Bible calls sin. It also requires that we acknowledge our humiliating need to depend on Christ.

His incarnation, represented in the bread of the Communion table, demanded that He leave the glory of His eternal throne in heaven to take on the weakness and pain of humanity.

His death, represented by the cup of the Communion table, demanded that the only perfect human being who ever existed be shamefully humiliated, unjustly condemned and brutally executed.

However, Jesus is not only our sacrifice. He is our model, the one whose obedient lifestyle we are called upon to emulate. There is no indication in the Bible that those who continue to live sinful lives without remorse or effort to do otherwise are living in a state of forgiveness. God’s demand for perfect obedience has been satisfied in Christ, but He calls all of His children to grow in holiness.

Therefore, obedience is the surest form of evidence that we have been forgiven. As our author says: “Because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Verse 14)

The believer, who has already been set apart — made forever perfect, the [New International Version] says — is currently being made holy. While personal holiness requires the agreement of our minds and the submission of our wills, it is ultimately the work of God in us.

As Jesus says in John 6:40: “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise Him up at the last day.”

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