In our daily lives we have to make many choices. Often those choices are mutually exclusive. If we do this, we cannot do that. For example, when we’re driving our car down the street, if we choose to turn left, we cannot simultaneously turn right. The very act of turning left automatically closes off the possibility of turning to the right at that instant.
The same principle holds true in spiritual things. We have to make a choice whom we are going to serve. Whatever choice we make closes off the other. For example, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matthew 6:24 NIV)
The Israelites seemed to have a hard time understanding the concept. They tried time and again to serve both God and idols. But the choices are mutually exclusive. It’s either God or the idols, not both. That’s why the prophets repeatedly urged them to make up their minds about who they would serve. Elijah told the people of his day, “…How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21 NIV)
Just as God offered the Israelites a choice, He offers one to us today. And the choice we make is every bit as important as the one they had make. Choosing one option automatically takes away the other.
Here’s how the writer of Hebrews describes the situation in chapter 9, verses 22 through 28. He contrasts what the Israelites had in the Law of Moses to what we have in Christ. He writes, “In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (NIV)
In chapter 10, verses 26 through 29 he goes on to say, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (NIV)
According to these passages, we can’t avoid death. Some day all of us will have to face it. Some day all of us will face judgment. We will have to answer for what we’ve done. While we don’t have any choice about whether we will die and face judgment, we do have a choice about how we will die. We can choose to die outside of Christ or we can die in Him. The choices are mutually exclusive. We can’t be both in and out of Christ at the same time.
As we just read, Jesus sacrificed himself to do away with sin. If we choose to accept His sacrifice, we will face the judgment with no sin held against us. We will be declared innocent. If we choose to reject His sacrifice, our sins will be counted against us at the judgment and we will be punished.
The bread we eat and the juice we drink each Sunday remind us of Jesus’ sacrifice. We can rejoice that because of His sacrifice we have a choice of how we’re going to approach death and the judgment to come. As we partake let’s renew our choice to accept what Jesus did for us.