How much blood will save my soul?

There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the place and meaning of the Old Testament sacrifices. So what did they mean? What did they accomplish? Three crystal clear answers are provided in Hebrews 10 verses 1-4.

The OT sacrifices shadowed good things to come (v. 1a)
Try to think of your most cherished and precious religious activity. Maybe it’s singing God’s praises, maybe it’s the prayer meeting, or preaching, or fellowship, or the Lord’s Supper. How would you feel if someone came along and told you, “Hey, that’s just a pale shadow of what we have got in our church.” You would probably feel a bit hurt and offended, and it might even make you say, “Well if there’s one church I’m not going to, it’s yours!”

However, that’s what the Apostle was saying to the Hebrews. He told them that the things they treasured and cherished most were only pale shadows of what the Christian Church was now enjoying. He was not saying that the New Covenant Church was practicing a different religion to the Old Covenant Church, but rather a higher, fuller, and brighter form of the same religion. He was saying that Christ’s saving shadow lay over the OT, but that if they came over to the New Covenant Church, they would see the One who cast the shadow.

Or to put it another way, holding on to the Old Testament sacrifices was like stopping at a signpost that said, “Grand Rapids — 100 miles” and calling it home. The Apostle was saying, “The OT sacrifices pointed you in the right direction, but come all the way home! You’ve followed the signposts pointing to good things to come. Great! But as the good “thing” has now come, don’t stop short. You’ve enjoyed the saving shadow; now come and bask in His saving sunlight.”

The OT sacrifices never saved anyone (vv. 1b-4)
1. They could not perfect anyone (1b):  The same sacrifices were repeated endlessly year after year. But they never (not past, present, future) made worshippers perfect. They provided ceremonial cleansing (qualified them to take part in the Tabernacle and Temple rituals and ceremonies). But they never made anyone “perfect,” which means “to bring to completion.” They had the limited usefulness of allowing Israelites to draw near to God physically – granting access to the camp and it’s Tabernacle – but they could not go further. They could not bring people to “completion,” to the intended end of nearness and fellowship with God.

2. They could not pacify the human conscience (2-3): If the sacrifices had ever cleansed the conscience, the worshipers would no longer have felt guilty for their sin, and they would have stopped offering the sacrifices. The fact that they continued to offer the sacrifices proved that they were still conscious of unforgiven sin that broke communion with God. The annual Day of Atonement, which seems to be especially in view here, produced a specially painful conscience in many Hebrews. When it came round every year, the burden of unforgiven sin felt heavier not lighter. The perpetual repetition of the sacrifices proved the ineffectiveness.

3. They could not put away sin before God (4): The Apostle tells us that however many gallons of animal blood was poured into God’s presence, not one sin was ever washed away by that tsunami of blood. Not one. “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

Moral defilement cannot be removed by an animal. (Ps. 51:10, 16f; 1 Sam. 15:22; Ps. 50:8ff; Isa 1:11ff; 66:1ff; Jer. 7:21ff; Hos. 6:6; 14:2; Amos 5:21ff; Mic. 6:6ff). There is a great gulf fixed between animal sacrifices and human beings. It’s so disproportionate. As the Apostle reminds us three times: animal sacrifices cannot take away sin (Heb. 10:1, 4, 11). Even if every animal in the world was sacrificed for me, not one of my sins would be washed away.

And that did not just begin to be true when Jesus came. It was true throughout the Old Testament as well. That’s why in chapter 10, as in so many other places, the Apostle turns to the Old Testament (Ps. 40) to prove his point!

The OT sacrifices reminded of sin (3)
In fact, far from removing sin, the sacrifices reminded of sin. Every time they were offered it was like a reminder alarm going off in their consciences. “This is what you deserve. This is the danger you are in.”

On the annual Day of Atonement the High Priest confessed all the sins of the nation. So many thousands of sacrifices were offered then and at the Passover, that channels were actually constructed to carry the gallons of blood from the altar to the Brook Kidron. And at the end of the annual Atonement Day, the High Priest came out from his once-a-year visit to the Most Holy Place and said, “That’s it, you don’t need to come back next year or ever again!”

If only!

No, he came out and all that could be said was “See you again next year.” The sacrifices were a powerful reminder of sin, but, in and of themselves, they were powerless to save. If any Israelite ever asked a godly priest, “How many animals will it take to save my soul?” the answer would have been: “It is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin. Look in faith to the coming Messiah that these sacrifices point us toward.”

That’s why the Apostle here turns from animal bodies (Heb. 10:1-4) to the precious and perfect body of Christ (v. 5), and His one perfect offering that perfects us, pacifies our conscience, and puts sin away (vv. 11-14). “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

One body. One sacrifice. One priest. One salvation. It is finished!

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How to Read John Owen
Some of Ryan McGraw’s tips for reading John Owen:

  • Do not get bogged down with Owen’s outlines. Keep reading and try to follow the big picture of where his argument. He did not write random collections of devotional thoughts, but books with definite aims. Keep his goals in mind as you read.
  • Read the table of contents of a book in order to preview its contents at a glance. Puritan authors’ tables of contents were more detailed than we are used to today. They can help you digest the material better.
  • Persevere and keep reading. Reading seventeenth-century theology is like learning another language. While Owen wrote in English, it is not the English that you know and use. This is an obstacle for modern readers whether we are reading Owen or anyone else from his time. Reading Owen is like making a new friend. The more time you spend with him, the more you will know and like him. Patterns of thought will become familiar and easy, though never predictable or mundane.
  • Develop your reading skills generally. In his classic work How to Read a Book, Mortimer J. Adler notes that modern education does not carry us beyond a grammar-school reading level. Few people today learn how to read theology or philosophy. Reading Owen provides a good opportunity to become a better reader. Read Adler’s book to help you as well. It is a classic for good reasons.

Christians Must Be Myth Busters
“Christian myth busters don’t just point out what’s wrong in the worldviews of others; they embody what’s true, and good, and beautiful in the gospel of Jesus Christ. So that others want the gospel to be true.”

Why are bookstores struggling?
Two articles by a Christian bookstore operator. Part 1 and Part 2. Anyone interested in books and education should read these articles.

7 Ways to Care for Your Wife
Click through for exposition of each point:

  1. Lead Her in Worship.
  2. Carry Her Burdens. 
  3. Provide for Her.
  4. Serve Her in the Home.
  5. Praise Her in Public. 
  6. Show Her Affection. 
  7. Be Transparent With Her.

Kindle Book

Union with Christ: The Way to Know and Enjoy God $0.99

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Goals for 2017 | Right With God
My Dad shares his goals for 2017.

Aging Gracefully | Tim Challies
“When I was still young I resolved that I would age with grace. I would not be a dirty old man, an embittered old man, a drunken old man, a purposeless old man. I determined that in old age I would be dignified and godly, I would exemplify character and purposeful living to the end.”

Praying Through the Scriptures: Joshua 23 | Chad Van Dixhoorn, Reformation21 Blog
‘m really enjoying this series:

Over the years it has been my practice, learned from others, to offer up praises and petitions framed by a passage of Scripture. Some of these passages were read in preparation for preaching, others offered material for meditation in daily devotion; still others were plundered specifically for the purpose of finding fresh material for prayer. As I continue to learn how to pray I have shared a few prayers with my family and friends for their use or adaptation. Here is the fourth prayer–based on Joshua 23–in a series on ‘Praying Through the Scriptures:’

20 Questions to Expose Your Idolatry | Paul Tautges, Counseling One Another
Did you know that there were 20 different kinds of idolatry? All of them produced by idol factory in our own hearts.

This Weekend Only: Stream 7,000+ Christian Videos for Free! | LogosTalk
“From January 20–23, anyone with a Faithlife account can stream every Mobile Ed video and all of FaithlifeTV+, absolutely free! That’s over 7,000 videos, and more than 1,500 hours of content—everything from family-friendly, Bible-focused animated videos for your kids, to biographies, documentaries, lectures from today’s top scholars, and more!”

How the Attacks on Trump Reinforce His Strategy | Roger L. Martin, Harvard Business Review
As everyone’s still scratching their heads, here’s a novel and persuasive take on why Trump won the election.

New Booklet

How Can I Grow in Holiness through Reading the Old Testament? by Michael Barrett

Which believer doesn’t want to be holy? Which believer doesn’t want to understand the Old Testament better?  Well, here’s a short booklet that will do both for you. While Dr. Barrett concedes that parts of the Old Testament are frustrating and difficult to understand, he also outlines simple practical steps that will not only give you greater understanding of the Bible but also produce greater likeness to Christ.

Kindle Deals

30 Events That Shaped the Church: Learning from Scandal, Intrigue, War, and Revival by Alton Gansky ($0.99)

Exploring Grace Together: 40 Devotionals for the Family by Jessica Thompson ($3.99)

Isaac Watts by Graham Beynon ($2.99)


Upon the Death of a Grandson: Nathan’s Testimony
Click the link above for Philip Jensen’s article written upon the death of his grandson. And then watch the video below of his grandson’s testimony before he died.

Should I use my phone for my personal devotions?

Friday’s Facebook Live session addressed the question of whether we should use smartphones, iPads, and other digital devices in our personal Bible reading. I argued strongly against it for the following reasons which I explain at greater length in the video.

1. Distraction

Distracted before reading the Bible: it’s very difficult to pick up phone and not check email/social media first.

Distracted while reading the Bible: Texts and other notifications break the connection with God.

2. Anticipation

Even if you do not get notifications while reading the Bible on a device, the mere possibility of getting a notification, or the possibility of being able to click to something else, changes the way we read and think. It’s been demonstrated that even the presence of a silent phone on a table when a husband/wife are talking changes the level and length of conversation.

3. Association

The brain associates objects, events, smells, tastes, with certain activities. For example, it’s been shown that if we study in the same place every day, when we sit in the chair the brain already begins to go into study mode. The pattern of activity in the brain changes.

Our brain associates our phones with fast-paced reading, surfing, scanning, entertainment, perhaps even worse. That’s no mindset to be in to commune with God.

Studies have found that the brain reacts differently to reading a paper book and a book on a multimedia device.

4. Location

The brain maps a book in a way that it doesn’t with digital books. I can still remember the first Bible I had after I was converted; where verses were on each page; where chapters began and ended. That was a huge help when witnessing or pastoring and I wanted to find a particular chapter or verse.

5. Impression

I have vivid memories of growing up and seeing my Dad sitting with his Bible in his chair every morning. That left a deep impression on me. Similarly with one of my grandmothers. If we use a digital device, our kids have no idea whether we are Facebooking, Tweeting, reading the news, or reading the Bible.

Thanks to everyone who took part in the discussion. I start answering questions about the 16.44 mark.

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How to Take Responsibility after a Major Mistake – Michael Hyatt
What does it mean to take responsibility after a major mistake? Here are four steps anyone can follow to get things back on track.

When You Feel Dead On The Inside
10 excellent diagnostic questions here:

“So what do you do when you feel dead on the inside? What do you say to your loved ones when they feel this way? I’ve found that people who reflect on the following 10 diagnostic questions find the life and energy they’ve been missing more quickly and deeply than those that don’t. The way you answer these questions will determine what steps you need to take next.

A Cancer Within Evangelical Christianity
Phil continues his series on spiritual abuse:

There is a serious problem within protestant evangelical Christianity. We love right preaching and teaching more than we love right living. We love power and authority more than sacrifice and submission. We love honor over humility. We love being led by popular leaders who make us feel good more than following the despised and rejected One—who has no “beauty or majesty to attract us to him.” (Isa 53) We want King Saul over young David.

6 Types of “Dangerous Charisma”
Good follow-up to previous article:

Charisma is often defined as “compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others.” But that type of charisma can be dangerous. We have seen leaders known for their charisma lead people in horrific directions or crumble because their own inner health was woefully inconsistent with their external persona. Here are six types of dangerous charisma:”

Times of Stress, Times of Opportunity
This review of Thomas Friedman’s new book, Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations accomplishes what few book reviews do — it makes the book irresistible.

Let’s Stay: A Prayer for Suicidal Young Men
According to the most recent large-scale study by the Center for Disease Control, 78% of Americans who kill themselves are male. (It is also noteworthy that suicide is the second leading cause of death among Millennials.) Why are so many men killing themselves?

3 Simple Words That Can Help Your Sermons Stick
This perfect Monday morning read for pastors highlights a simple practice every pastor can do on Monday that can help yesterday’s message have the impact you want.

Striving to Escape the Fall
Nick Batzig challenges the common failing of making secondary issues primary.

Marathons, mud runs, CrossFit, Yoga, diets, non-GMO and gluten-free foods, Christian financial programs, anti-vaccination and homeschooling have–each in their own way–taken over the driver’s seat of the lives of so many in the church. While all of these things, in and of themselves, may be good things and have their proper place in a believer’s life, they often hold too prominent a place.

Kindle Books

You won’t find better value this week than these three books for $11.

Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God $3.99.

Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus $3.99.

The Shepherd Leader at Home: Knowing, Leading, Protecting, and Providing for Your Family $2.99.

Digital Detox Testimonies: Diane’s Story

As part of my Digital Detox series, I like to post testimonies from people who have been battling digital intoxication and how they are getting free of it. So if you’ve got a story you want to share or some tips you’ve found helpful, please click on the little blue envelope to the right of the main page and you’ll get my email address. Diane sent me her story in response to last week’s Facebook Live video.

I have  a couple thoughts regarding your video, which my husband and I watched on your blog. I loved that you pointed out that the root problem is that people are addicted to their phones/technology because I believe this is true.

Being an older person (65 yrs), I’ve marveled at this “seemingly new” phenomenon since I’ve struggled  with it myself. I  have given this much thought over the years and believe television was the precursor to this problem. Every techno-addict — young and old  alike — have grown up with television.

I was born in 1951 in the era of B&W TV and “party lines.” As new believers in the early 70’s my husband and I did not own a TV for more than decade of our marriage — our eldest  child was nine before we caved and got one.

I believe that one reason people are so vulnerable to social media addiction is because they have never learned how to be alone with their thoughts. Go to any nursing home today and most everyone will be sitting in front of the TV. People have been programed not to be bored and lonely. They do not know what to do with themselves and social media fills the gap and provides a connection with other people, even when they have plenty to do!

Last year my husband worked in South Africa for two months and I was unable to go because of health problems. I was basically housebound in an empty house and I turned to Facebook to keep me company. It was a lifeline. That accidental experiment  got me to thinking about how dependent I had become on it and how much I longed for “the good old days” before the invasion of TV and other electronics.

What DID we do back then? We read a lot. We played games, had people over, visited people who were lonely, served like crazy at church, worked… get the idea. I don’t ever remember being bored. Our children were never bored either!   Even though we lived in the city, they always found something to amuse themselves. Something to create. It’s funny how after we introduced the TV into our home they began to lose some of their creative energy and become more restless.

Thank you so much for writing these posts. They are very much needed. I have “retired” from blogging  in order to simplify my life again.