Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Clear Your Heart, Not Your Calendar

Ever wonder what some of that stuff on your calendar means? Not the stuff you wrote illegibly. The stuff printed on the calendar by the calendar-making people - the Calendarites.

The Calendarites have printed a couple of things on my calendar during this month that are incredibly significant, yet most Christians have no idea what any of it means nor how it relates to their faith.

Keeping in mind that this is a devotion and not a dissertation, let's glance at our "at-a-glance" calendars together and learn a little about some funny words printed there. Look at the 19th and the 28th of September. What do you see? Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Men, those are not famous fashion designers. Ladies, those are not famous athletes. They are Jewish holidays. Why should we care? We're Christians, not Jews. True. But Christianity came out of Judaism and Jesus was Jewish!

Reminds me of the Jewish Rabbi who sent his son to Jerusalem only to learn that his son met a Christian there and became a follower of Christ. The Rabbi was heartbroken, and went to God in prayer, "My son went to Jerusalem and became a Christian! What am I going to do?" God answered, "Why are you asking Me? So did Mine!"

Let's start with Rosh Hashanah. Translated, it means "head of the year." Believe it or not, "Happy New Year" hasn't always been celebrated by all things human on January 1st! The Jewish New Year isn't about fireworks and resolutions. It's about repentance and cleansing.

Rosh Hashanah is also known as the Feast of Trumpets. In ancient Israel, a trumpet (shofar) was blown for two reasons: to gather the Israelites together for an assembly or to sound an alarm to the troops that an enemy was approaching.

The trumpet means, "Get ready!" The trumpet is blown for 40 days to remind people to repent because Rosh Hashanah is coming. Sound familiar, Christian friend? I seem to recall the New Testament repeatedly warning followers of Christ to get ready and stay ready because of the promise of a trumpet blast that will announce the return of Christ! (1st Thessalonians 4:16-17). One big difference. When the trumpet blows to announce Christ's return, the Calendarites won't have it printed for us. 2nd Peter 3:10-12 reminds us that no one knows when that day will come.

Rosh Hashanah means, "Get ready." And the way to get ready is to repent. Turn from your sins. Be cleansed of your sins that have accumulated and now cling to you like dust and grime.

Are you listening for the trumpet? Are you ready for Jesus to return? I can't help but believe that Gabriel has been practicing and his angelic lips are near the horn. Repent and turn to Christ now while he's inhaling. Once he exhales and blows that trumpet, it will be too late.

How do you turn to Christ? Just tell God in your own words that you know you are a sinner and you want to accept the sacrifice of Yeshua (Jesus), who paid the penalty for your sins when He was crucified in your behalf. Ask Him to forgive you and cleanse you. God's grace is freely available to all who ask.

Yom Kippur. Day of Atonement. Separate the first two letters of atonement from the next three and you get the idea: "At One" -ment. Our sins separate us from God. To be atoned means to be made "at one" with God again.

All the other Jewish festivals are celebrative. Filled with singing and dancing before the Lord. Yom Kippur is a more solemn time. A time to 'fess up and seek God's forgiveness and mercy.

Yom Kippur was the only time of the year the High Priest could enter the Most Holy Place of the Temple. He would enter to atone for his own sins and for the sins of the people. A bull and goat were sacrificed and their blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat.

On this same day, a second goat was brought in -- a scapegoat was brought to the leaders of Israel. They laid hands on the animal, symbolically placing the sins of the Nation on it. Then they drove it out into the wilderness, believing that it was carrying their sins away.

Goat #1 paid for their sins with his blood. Goat #2 removed their sins from their presence. Goat #1 brought forgiveness. Goat #2 brought cleansing and restored them to a righteous standing before God.

At least, for a little while. It had to be repeated every year and was needed every month, week, day, and hour. Why? Because we are all professional sinners.

The Book of Hebrews in the New Testament explains all of this. It is called "Hebrews" because it reveals the truth of Yeshua's Messianic fulfillment to those Jews who seek to make an honest investigation of the claims of Christ. It brings the Jew to see that Judaism has been fulfilled in Jesus.

Yom Kippur. Day of Atonement. As a believer and follower of Christ, you have a Yom Kippur, too. There's been a day of atonement for you. It isn't on any of our current or recent calendars. It was etched into one calendar 2,000 years ago. "For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (Hebrews 9:24).

Once Jesus made His sacrifice of atonement on the cross when He died for our sins, it finalized the need for annual sacrifices. "Not that He should offer Himself often...but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many" (Hebrews 9:25-28).

By the way...Jesus IS returning. How do I know? He promised He would. He's kept every promise He ever made. Others can scoff and doubt. It makes them feel smart. That's fine. Jesus predicted they would, so when they do, they just make Him look right smart.

I don't know when Jesus is coming. I just know He is. When I see my calendar every September, it reminds me to be ready. Are you ready? If not, will you make an honest, unbiased search of the Bible for truth? Not because you already believe it ISN'T true and want to nitpick it to death, but because you really want to know if it IS true.

I know you're hungry for something that satisfies. Jesus is the bread of life, the manna from heaven, the source of living water, the light of the world, and the garment of righteousness.

Happy New Life!
Perry Crisp

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