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From the Preacher’s Pen…

It’s been a busy couple of weeks of travel visiting and talking with congregations and with preachers and elders. I’ve observed congregations, preachers and elders that truly love the Lord and His church. Faithful saints that continue to mold their lives after Jesus and share the good news with others.

No, they are not perfect and no one is more aware of that fact than they are. But they are constantly in the Word of God and making the effort to actually be the people of God.

Sadly, there are the others, too. Those that have “left their first love,” those that have “gone out from us but are not really of us.” These continue to mock the Lord’s will and spurn the “faith that was once for all delivered” by God.

Each of these sights causes me to remember a special day of the Old Testament Law and to recall how much more it means to us now:

The Day of Atonement

Yes, I do know that this “Day” occurs in the Autumn. But bear with me for a moment and think.

Yom Kippur is the Hebrew term for the Day of Atonement. For Israel, it began with God’s forgiveness for the sin of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32). An annual reminder of both their failure and God’s mercy, it is so much more than that.

Israel’s failure is one of those “How COULD you ever do that” events. God had already told them the basics of honoring Him who delivered them from Egyptian bondage. They had already seen incredible miracles of His love and salvation for them. And yet they so quickly forgot, gave credit to the ridiculous and willingly did what they knew was wrong. They were human and they were failures in serving God.

While every day is important and holy, this day was the most holy day of the Jewish year. With this day they remembered their very essence, what made them who they are at their peak of greatness. They remembered God having a relationship with them that transcended the most horrible mistakes in their lives!

The celebration of this Day is likened to being angels. Only spiritual needs are to be catered to, a whole day of devotion to God in repentance and prayer. A day to not only BE better but to prepare to continue to be better for the next year.

Every single thing leading up to and on this Day is centered around God. The one thing they once forgot is now their priority. The one focus they lost is now their goal to remember forever. The failures of sin become the obsession. We must forgive others, we must obtain forgiveness for ourselves from others, we must strive to be better, and most especially, we must determine to honor our God!

There are all kinds of suggestions for help with all of this. There are great lists that challenge both thoughts and actions. And then, as the day draws to an end there is a solemn reminder that, as the first three stars appear in the evening, God has sealed your fate in the Book of Life.

At that point, all the questions turn to joyous confidence in forgiveness. A new year has begun with the resolve to BE the person God has called and intended you to be.

The first thing we ought to compare all of this to is our Day of Atonement. The day our Lord turned it all around by Him dying for our sins rather than visiting death on us as we so richly deserved. Our failures, our sins were what led Him to the cross to die, not for Himself, but for us.

Does that day alone make you go WOW! Does that totally amaze us that He would love us so much? Shouldn’t it?

The second thing we ought to compare all this to is every Lord’s Day, every First Day of the Week. Since we have so much greater blessings and so much greater forgiveness (1 John 1:7-8 says His blood keeps on cleansing us) we ought to be so much more mindful of His sacrifice.

Since God has always made clear that our forgiveness from Him is dependent on our forgiveness of others (cf. Luke 11:4), the third thing we ought to compare all this to is how well we do at forgiving. Forgiveness of sins is not limited to those that “deserve” it… because no one ever deserves it!

The final aspect of our comparison must be the future. How, in light of all God’s mercy for us, will we do in being faithful in the future? Paul put it like this: Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship (Romans 12:1).

When we read of the Old Testament Day of Atonement we need to make the application to our even greater Day of Atonement in Christ. And when we see the failure of others, those that have “left their first love,” those that have “gone out from us but are not really of us,” we must resolve to do better. We must choose to not only accept atonement but to continue to live holy lives in the future!

How could they forget? How could we forget?

— Lester P. Bagley