Afflicting our souls

““This shall be a statute forever for you: In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether a native of your own country or a stranger who dwells among you. For on that day the priest shall make atonement for you, to cleanse you, that you may be clean from all your sins before the Lord. It is a sabbath of solemn rest for you, and you shall afflict your souls. It is a statute forever. And the priest, who is anointed and consecrated to minister as priest in his father’s place, shall make atonement, and put on the linen clothes, the holy garments; then he shall make atonement for the Holy Sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tabernacle of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. This shall be an everlasting statute for you, to make atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins, once a year.” And he did as the Lord commanded Moses.”
‭‭Leviticus‬ ‭16‬:‭29‬-‭34‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Afflicting our souls

All too often, we New Testament followers of Jesus, take this great salvation for granted. We bask in what we come perceive as self-granted righteousness, forgetting that the work was done for us. Over time there is a distance, as we are far removed from that moment when we were saved from our sins, when we exchanged the sinful lives that destined us for hell, for the grace of God which destined us for an eternity with Jesus.

Our salvation was a gift of God, not of our works, for we could do nothing to bring about our forgiveness of sins.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV

We are created for good works, not saved by them.

Reading Leviticus chapter sixteen, I was reminded of the work that the high priest did for the people of Israel. The earthly priest, according to the order of Aaron, would go into the holy of holies once per year to make an offering for the people. That fleshly priest was but a type and shadow of our Great High Priest, Jesus, who made Himself a living sacrifice, far better than the blood of bulls and lambs.

“For every high priest taken from among men is appointed for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also subject to weakness. Because of this he is required as for the people, so also for himself, to offer sacrifices for sins. And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.”
Hebrews 5:1-4 NKJV

“For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever.”
Hebrews 7:26-28 NKJV

Oh what a wonderful thing the Lord has done for us! Because of Jesus, we can enter into the Holy Holies and have an audience with the Father.

Since we have received such a great work, done on our behalf, what must be our chief occupation? In the passage in Leviticus, it instructs the children of Israel to “afflict their souls”. The greatest affliction for the modern day followers of Jesus is the reflection on what we have done in our lives.

I have found that as I have followed the Lord more closely, I have seen my sin through keener eyes, for no longer is there that veil of selective remembrance. I see what I have done through the uni field clarity of the Holy Spirit and the word, as it tears into my innermost being.

I tell you the truth, it is often painful, but it is always instructive. The affliction of coming clean before the Lord brings more growth. The word of God has the power to cut me to the quick.

“For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.”
Hebrews 4:12-13 NKJV

Brothers and sisters, our need for affliction is not for the sole benefit of spiritual gain, though that is certainly a byproduct, but it is a means of making us more effective Christians, more willing and able to go out and fulfill the ministry the Lord has given us. We are called to be ambassadors, those who go and represent the Lord Jesus.

We are messengers bringing the Gospel. Lest we forget:

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,”
‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭15‬:‭1‬-‭4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Affliction, in the form of repentance, is sadly missing in the church today. We have, all too often, tried to turn the Gospel that saved us, into an instrument of power. It was never meant to be that, for the Lord Himself, God in the flesh, laid aside His glory and His rights as Second of the Godhead, to be humiliated on the cross.

It is time for us to repent of our misrepresentation of Christ, and begin representing Him as we should. Let us take on the position of humility, testifying to what the Lord has done for us, and that we could have done none of it ourselves.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:5-11 NKJV

We exist to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ, making much of the salvation that is available to the most gross of sinners, of which I am chief. And so are you.

“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”
James 4:7-10 NKJV

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