Another morning comes. I sit on the couch and open my Bible. Let’s see, what to read. “Okay, I could read Genesis. Or Exodus. Leviticus? No way. That book has nothing to do with me.” So I skip over it and go to the New Testament.
Leviticus has everything to do with me. No, I’m not Jewish. So before you skip to the next post, let me have a few minutes of your attention to explain some *really* important things.
Recently, I read (and am still reading) through Leviticus as part of a read-through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan. As I approached it, dread filled my heart. (Wow, that was poetic.) Anyway, I didn’t want to read it. Seriously, what do you get out of learning about cleansing rituals?! Yeah, that was my mindset when I was towards the end of Exodus. And I learned some very important things that changed my feelings towards this holy book.
All my life, I’ve known that “All the books of the Bible are equally important.” But silently I added, “Except, the New Testament is better than the Old Testament, and Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy don’t really count for being important.”
Uh oh. *cringes* Big mistake there.
And I’ve been learning very important lessons from Leviticus that I wanted to share so y’all wouldn’t skip over it like I used to. Okay. Here goes.
1) Sometimes, God might have seemed picky or arrogant when He required specific things from His people. But! We cannot assume that for a few reasons.
a) He is God. Arrogance only comes from someone who puts themself in a higher position than they actually deserve. However, there is no higher position than God, and He deserves everything He is. He is “I AM”!
b) Because God is God, he knew exactly what the consequences for disobeying him would be. For example, when He commanded certain cleansing after touching dead things or refraining from eating pigs and other animals, it was to prevent the spread of disease and germs that the Israelites knew nothing about. Wow, isn’t God smart?! (The answer to that would be yes, of course.)
2) When the Bible talks about spotless animals without blemish for sin offerings, this foreshadows to Jesus, our spotless and blemish-less sin offering. Nobody else or any animal could forgive every single sin in the entire world.
3) While the Israelites were constantly making offerings to forgive their sin, Jesus’ perfect offering was a one-time-forgives-all kind of deal. Sweet!
4) Israel lived as a -slave to sin- and the law–we now live as children of God, living in grace! Thank you God!
Let me restate this. WE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD. LIVING IN GRACE. NOT SLAVES TO SIN. AMAZING, RIGHT?!
5) Obedience to God above all else is the most important. He created the world, and obviously knows best. Yes, our naïvety gets the best of us many times and we live life thinking that we are in control and really know what’s best for ourselves…stupid mistakes over and over and over. I’m guilty.
See what I mean? This has everything to do with us! This book foreshadows the freedom from sin and the law that was to come. Because Leviticus has everything to do with Jesus and I live only because of Jesus, this has everything to do with me.
So the next time you routinely gloss over Leviticus, think again. Don’t think of it as just a bunch of boring rules and regulations; remember that it is the holy and inspired Word of God; an unfolding revelation, and a foreshadowing of the awaited Messiah for every person.
For a while there, I *thought* I had it pretty good.
I’ve kept straight A’s, I guess I’m pretty smart. My friends call me a genius. (Trust me, I am not.) People tell me I’m talented, beautiful, and godly. I have a lot of friends, and I guess I can be pretty popular.
At least I turn in my assignments on time. I sit in the front row of every class and my teachers like me.
I read my Bible every day without fail, I teach Sunday school and youth group, and I’m on our youth group worship team.
So I’m pretty good, I thought. (Big mistake. Pride does come before a fall.) My life had become a checklist, and I was doing well. Or so I thought.
But God changed everything.
He said “no”.
“No, AJ, you can’t be good enough for me.”
“I’m not good enough? Just show me what to do!” I screamed.
And he said, “Do nothing, Amanda.”
And I cried “WHY?! You’ve blessed me with talent! With a brain! Aren’t I supposed to use it?!”
And he said to me, “You don’t need to be smart. You don’t need to be beautiful by the world’s standards. You don’t need to do all this for me, because my love for you does not depend on what you do. You are my child, and I love you. I sent Jesus to pay the price for your salvation. And I see HIM in you, not the things that you do. (See Colossians 2:10 “And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.”)
“You are to do things for my glory, not for your benefit or to look good.
“Amanda, I love you anyway.”
He loves me anyway.
I’ve spent too many hours crying over feeling like I’m incomplete. But Jesus makes me complete. I’ve spent too many hours stressing over getting an A. But it’s not really that big of a deal. I’ve spent too many hours focused on me. And it’s not even about me. I’ve spent too many hours stubbornly worrying about my problems on my own…when I’m supposed to cast my cares on God because he cares for me. (See 1 Peter 5:7) What did I miss? Everything!
I’m not sure what I was trying to earn. Because I now realize that who I am in Christ has nothing to do with my performance.
And that was a relief to hear.
God doesn’t require us to be perfect. Perfection is impossible! He just requires us to abide in him.
And with his help, I can do that.
Who doesn’t love the feeling of being happy? I sure do. But the truth is, nobody is happy all the time. It’s impossible.
I like to think of it like sucking helium out of a balloon. You suck in the helium and your voice sounds awesome for like, a very short amount of time. And then it goes back to normal.
Just like being happy. Except being happy is worse.
Something “amazing” happens and we’re on top of the world, floating on clouds, in a fragile happiness bubble. And then something happens and we’re more depressed than we were before. The bubble pops, gravity does its thing, and we are on the cold hard ground, contemplating the meaning of life all over again. Or something like that.
We can’t maintain happiness, because it is an emotion. And you can’t maintain an emotion for very long. Because being happy is conditional. For example, getting a new item, making good grades, being in a great relationship can make you happy…but once the newness wears off, or the thing you were hoping for doesn’t happen, you’re “unhappy” and this goes on and on for your entire life.
But I’ve got some good news.
You can’t always be happy, but you can have JOY. I’m not just saying this because it’s my middle name. Because we can all have true joy in our lives. How? Well let me tell you.
Where does joy come from? A thriving relationship with the savior of your soul. Honestly, which do you think sounds better?
1) A free ticket to the concert or amusement park of your choice for a day. Super cool, right? I love when I get free tickets!
2) A free ticket to heaven, for eternity, with no lines to wait in, all access to the Creator of the Universe, in pure paradise, better than the Bahamas! As a bonus, you get 24/7 prayer access, love and grace from your savior, forgiveness of sin, and unconditional love.
Whoa. That is seriously wicked awesome! (If you’re not familiar with the word “wicked” being a positive adjective, it means like super-super-super-super-wow-awesome. It’s a New England thing.)
Free concert tickets is really fun. But it can only make you happy. Once the day is over, it’s back to normal.
BUT! Jesus in your life is -truly- fulfilling. No, your problems don’t melt away. But the God of Angel Armies is on our side. No, life won’t be easy and pain-free. But Jesus is right beside us, and he understands. You have to choose joy though, because obviously it won’t come naturally. But remembering the significance of God in our lives sure helps.
If we can understand how much God loves us, enough to give up his one and only perfect son to die for our sins, doesn’t that give us joy? If we realize how great our sinfulness is and how deep the grace of God is, isn’t that fulfilling? God never had to create us; he knew all along we would rebel. And he knew he would send his son to die. But he did anyway. His love is extravagant! He’ll never ever stop loving us.
So think about this: happiness is an emotion. It’s good, but never good enough. Joy is a choice and a realization. It comes from a relationship with your savior. Which will you choose today?