Walking In the Light of the High Holy Days (part 3)
Awareness of the holiness of God and our responsibility to walk upright before him leads to repentance, which in turn leads us to imitate him by walking in the light of forgiveness. That is our third and today's lesson from the Fall Feast cycle. "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin [...]." Look at Matthew 6:14, "For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Hmm, I do not hear any amens. Now, look carefully at Matthew 5:21 where Jesus says, "If you're offering your gift, your sacrifice at the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, you've offended him," Note that Jesus does not say, " Just go ahead and offer your offering to God, all that matters is that you're right with him." No, Jesus was a Jew, not a Protestant. Interestingly, Jewish tradition states that if you go to offer sacrifices before God but you have not repented, or you ask Him for forgiveness, but you are holding onto unforgiveness, it's like going into the ritual immersion pool clinging to a defiling reptile. In other words, you can go through all the religious motions, but if you are still holding on to something defiling, then you are offering a sacrifice of fools. We in the West are so individualistically minded. We think that all we've got to do is get right with God. Perhaps we engage in spiritual disciplines, maybe study God's Word, pray more, etc. But that is not the world or worldview of Jesus. To engage in discipleship with the King means to join his community, and when two or three kingdom people gather together, he is in the midst of them. That is an idea that comes out of Jewish tradition, radicalized in Jesus because the Spirit is poured out on the entire community. I am preaching this with conviction because many Christians I encounter are greatly hindered, hampered, and not experiencing the pure intimacy of God's salvation in Jesus because they are holding on to unforgiveness. The High Holy Days remind us to walk in the light of God's holiness, in the spirit of repentance, and in the grace of forgiveness. Whom does God forgive? He who has forgiven. Whom does God bless? He who has blessed. The most solemn day of the biblical calendar is the Day of Atonement. According to Jewish tradition, on that day the satan cannot accuse the people of God. I find that to be a profound insight. My friends, if you are walking in the light of atonement, then the adversary has no authority over you. However, if you are not acknowledging that God is holy; if you are not engaging in authentic acts of repentance (not only out of fear of judgment but out of love for your heavenly Father); if you are not practicing forgiveness, then you are blocking the presence of God. And with that comes accusation, oppression, and absence of blessing. This is the Feast of Trumpets, the Ten Days of Awe, the Day of Atonement. These are times of grace, designed by a gracious God for our good. In Jesus name, let go of the defiling reptile.