The Cleansing Blood
A Devotional Communion Service
Study Guide, July 8, 2018
Pastor Clay Olsen
Choir: God So Loved the World
Praise: Oh, Lord You’re Beautiful
A five year old once asked: “What does my blood do all day?” Good question. Well, imagine a flexible plastic tube winding southward from Canada to the jungles of South America, plunging into the oceans and surfacing at every inhabited island, shooting out eastward through Africa and joining all of Europe and Russia, as well as the Middle East…a pipeline so long that it links every one of the over 7 billion people worldwide. Now then; inside this tube is an endless treasure of provision; cereals, fruits, clothing, and all types of accessories. All 7 billion people have instant access to what they need by simply reaching into the tube.
Such a pipeline exists in each of our bodies, reaching not 7 billion, but around 40 trillion cells in every person’s body. That’s the latest count…give or take a few trillion. But each one of these trillions of cells has special withdrawal privileges from the fluid, called ‘blood’, for whatever it needs. Eight to ten pints of this all purpose fluid takes care of all 40 trillion cells. No wonder the Bible tells us that the life is in the blood!
In William Cowper’s hymn, the words are familiar to us: “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.” Well, this theological image makes for good biology as well. Dr. Paul Brand highlighted this wonderful cleansing power as he described the functioning of the human kidney. And several thoughts from this study are from his insightful book, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made. I highly recommend it…you’ll find it fascinating and practical at the same time.
I understand that some medical people judge the intricate workings of the kidney as second only to the brain in complexity. Here complex chemicals are filtered out as one fourth of the blood supply from each heartbeat rushes through the kidneys. Filtering is what the kidneys are all about, but in a very little space and time. Each new heartbeat pumps of quarter of the blood through kidney gates. The kidney manages speed by coiling the tubules into two million crystal loops, where all the cells are picked over one by one. It kind of reminds us of factory workers standing over a belt picking out every part that is not quite right.
Then the kidneys remove the red cells entire payload to remove some thirty chemicals. Then it places back 99% of the volume into the bloodstream. The 1% is rushed away to be eliminated. And then, one second later, the heart pounds and another quarter of the blood rushes in to fill the tubes, and the cleansing continues. Some Surgeons speak with a kind of reverence when they talk about the kidney. And some people who have lost theirs or use of their kidneys know just how blessed we are who still possess ours!
So all this focus on the process of cleansing leads back to the symbol. Blood sustains life by carrying away the chemical by-products that interfere with it. And this, right here, points out the perpetual problem of sin.
You know, too often we tend to view sin as a list of grievances that displease God. But even a casual reading of the Bible shows that sin is a blockage, a paralyzing poison that restricts reaching the life God designed for us. Remember, God’s laws were given for our sake, not just for His own. Sin needs to be continually filtered out of our lives just like the toxins are filtered out by our kidneys. Pride, egotism, lust, selfishness, envy, gossip…all poison our system and they must be purged out in order for us to be healthy and whole. The more we cling to our carnal desires and our unyielded self-will, the farther we withdraw from God and the more spiritually and morally sick we become.
In our Wednesday night studies we have been examining this Old Testament representation. God’s presence rested in the Most Holy place, approachable only once a year on the Day of Atonement by the high priest, who had purified himself through an elaborate system of blood sacrifices. But Jesus made that ceremony obsolete by His own, ‘once for all’ sacrifice. Matt 26:28- “…this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” NASU And then, in the book of Hebrews, Christ’s complete once for all sacrifice is contrasted with the partial and continual rituals by the high priest. Heb 7:26-27- “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.” NASU It’s amazing how Christ was both the High Priest and the sacrificial victim, offering up Himself on the altar of the cross.
The Old Covenant sacrificial system came to an end the day that Jesus offered up His own sinless blood on the altar of the cross and proclaimed “It is finished!” The final sacrifice for sin had just been offered. God even tore the veil of the temple from top to bottom to reveal to the world that everyone could now enter into His presence through this ‘once for all’ and ‘all sufficient sacrifice’ of the sinless blood of Jesus Christ, our Passover Lamb. And all who are now saved through receiving the Savior and trusting in the Savior’s sacrifice to remove their sin penalty can enter into direct communion with God. Heb 10:19-21- “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God…” NASU And Paul also tells us in Eph 2:13- “But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” NASU
The life of the flesh is in the blood. Remember, we have been cleansed from the penalty of our sin through the sinless blood of Christ. Peter reminds us of that in 1 Peter 1:18-22- “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose Him as your ransom long before the world began, but He has now revealed Him to you in these last days. Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because He raised Christ from the dead and gave Him great glory. You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth…” NLT
Let’s dwell on these wonders of God’s cleansing ways and thank Him for all the ways we are blessed through the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Now let’s enter the word ‘Repentance’ at this point. If we were to inject the concept of repentance into that process of the cleansing of the blood in the kidneys, it would depict each cell willingly cooperating with this cleansing necessity. Repentance would aptly describe the necessity of freeing the blood from the harmful effects of accumulating toxins. So think about it: repentance for salvation is the way of freeing the unsaved from the affects of accumulating judgment; and then repentance for fellowship with God is now the way for the saved to be free of the the harmful effects of accumulating toxins or sins which damage our fellowship with God and even damages the plan that God had for our lives.
In the table of Communion we are reminded of both. We are reminded of this complete forgiveness of the penalty of our sins, which was accomplished through Christ’s blood sacrifice on our behalf for our salvation. And we are also reminded of our continued forgiveness of the presence of our sins as we confess our sins in order to experience greater fellowship and usefulness to God. Again, it’s like we are experiencing that cell by cell cleansing of toxins from our lives. It really paints quite a word picture in connection with that great verse that the Apostle John gave us for our daily cleansing for fellowship.
1 John 1:9- “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” NASU
So as Christians, we understand that there is ‘salvation repentance’ and then there is ‘sanctification repentance’. When the Apostle Peter was speaking about repentance in 2 Peter 3:9 he was referring to the repentance of salvation: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” NASU The Apostle Paul also talked about this kind of repentance in 2 Cor 7:10- “For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.” NASU Worldly repentance comes short of salvation in that it only produces regret or sorrow, but Biblical repentance leads to salvation because it produces reliance and surrender; reliance upon Christ to save your soul and surrender to God to reign in your life. And one more verse here from the Apostle Peter that points out how this Biblical repentance leads to life. Acts 11:18- “Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.” NASU
Again, it’s remarkable to think about the real fact that repentance is for our benefit. Most people do not think of repentance in terms of being a cleansing that will benefit their entire life. They tend to think of repentance in terms of penance…like just going through a series of hard religious rituals or something. But Biblical repentance is more like that amazing cleansing that takes place within the organs of our bodies that God designed to protect us from the poisons and toxins of life. When people refuse to repent, either for their salvation or then as believers for their sanctification; that would be like the body refusing to give up the poisons and toxins that are ruining its health. It’s like a body saying, “No, I prefer to be sick…I want the build up of poison in my bloodstream to continue so that it will completely ruin my life.” How foolish indeed! And yet, that is exactly what people are saying who refuse to repent or to neglect repentance, both in order to have new life in Christ and then to walk with Christ through life.
Every commandment to repent, every call to follow, every instruction to obey that we find throughout the Bible is connected to this end: Each one is for our good; for our benefit. Repentance is God’s provision for our cleansing from the toxins of sin. Once we are cleansed from the penalty of sin, we then have eternal life in union with Christ, who shed His sinless blood to cleanse us from the judgment we were under because of our sins. And then, as we daily repent of the presence of sin in our lives, we are forgiven and cleansed from the poisoning effects of those sins in our lives. And by Christ’s Spirit within us we are then enabled to enjoy a greater spiritual and mental and emotional experience throughout our lives, without those damaging toxins that would otherwise be floating around in our souls.
The Apostle Paul gave us the wisest and healthiest and happiest way to live, and it’s in connection with this ‘cleansing habit’ or this practice of repentance as a way of life. Here it is: 2 Cor 7:1- “Since we have these promises, dear friends, we need to cleanse ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit and live a holy life in the fear of God.” God’s Word Version
As we prepare to partake of the cup, spend some moments in thanks to our Lord Jesus for His cleansing us from both the penalty of our sins, and for daily cleansing us from the presence of our sins as we come to Him in repentance day by day…to wash away the toxins in our lives and enjoy His blessings instead.
(Physiological information gratefully gleaned from Dr. Paul Brand’s work: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made)