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Believing the Promise

Believing the Promise

We all have had those moments when we received offers that were too good to be true. Perhaps it was the “Free Caribbean Cruise vacation” or some other opportunity to buy merchandise at a cost that seemed impossibly low compared to normal retail prices. Perhaps someone offered a service at a price far below the costs charged by competitors. Whatever the case, we found ourselves torn between our desire to believe in the authenticity of the deal and to accept the offer, on the one hand, and skeptical rejection because we knew something was amiss.
Sometimes the promises of God in his Word are received with similar ambivalence. One of the most incredible promises in Scripture is that recorded by the Hebrews writer when he talks of the efficacy of the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus: "When Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, 'he sat down at the right hand of God,' and since then has been waiting 'until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.' For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified" (Heb. 10:13-14).
Believing that a once-for-all sacrifice actually "purifies our conscience" (Heb. 9:14), without us having to do some sort of penance or otherwise fix ourselves, is hard for most of us to accept. We are guilty; we have to fix ourselves, get ourselves straightened out; stop what we have been doing, start doing what we haven't done. Often we believe that only when we have fixed ourselves can we turn to God again. Sometimes we even believe God himself really can't love us anymore because we are so guilt-ridden. The counseling offices around the nation are filled with Christian people whose guilt and shame continue to weigh them down, people for whom a positive self-image seems unattainable.
Yet here is the promise. "God so loved the world..." "Now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." "For by a single sacrifice he has perfected for all time..." It is not that we have nothing to do, it is the order in which God calls us to act. We assume that we have to act first--you know, "people do all they can do first, then God does the rest." The problem is we can never do enough to make ourselves worthy. The bigger mistake is our failure to realize that God has already acted! He has already loved us; his Son already made the once-for-all sacrifice. The call is to accept his grace, then respond to the redemption (the "once-for-all" sacrifice--that means past, present, and future for your life and mine). The question is, will we believe the promise?
Holy Father, we believe; help our unbelief!
John O. York




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