Nothing but the blood of Jesus

I heard a song for the first time the other day and was moved by the message and the music. I appreciated the nod to old familiar hymns woven through. Mostly, though, I was struck by the focus on the blood of Jesus as the master key of salvation. We don’t sing about the blood often in our contemporary services, but the old hymns regularly pointed to the centrality of blood to the gospel.

I’ve been in a study through Hebrews the last several weeks and listening to a plan on a Bible app about finding Jesus in the first five books of the Bible. My pastor in in a series taking a deep dive into Ephesians. I was primed to respond to this song. The gospel is clearly presented in these lyrics. The propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus as a ransom for our sins, both individually and corporately propels us to move from hopelessness to transformation and gratitude.

The mystery of grace, the very nature of God poured out on people who are utterly selfish, requires more than acknowledgement. Grace is not cheap. Grace is not easy. It cost our Savior everything. Without the sacrifice provided by grace, there is no hope for life; we are the walking dead.

Only by blood.

Under the Old Covenant the faithful had to bring regular sacrifices to the altar. The burnt offering was brought to the altar and completely burned up. The symbol there is that everything we have and everything we are belongs to the Father to do with as He desires. The purification offering was to atone for sins. The faithful brought the sacrifice (a male animal without any blemish), placed his hand on its head, and then killed it. The priests took the blood of the animal and splattered it on the altar and at the entrance of the tent of meeting (Leviticus 1). The offering was then burned completely; nothing remained. Sin is like that. If even one iota of sin remains in us, we stand condemned by a holy God.

Over and over again, the people brought and slaughtered animals to atone for their sins. Over and over the priests splashed the blood, still warm, over the altar. Year after year, and still the task of purification was incomplete.

Until Jesus. The author of Hebrews reflected on the required ritual sacrifices, noting that the old covenant was established in blood: life for life. “Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin” (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus, as the perfect Lamb of God, fully human and yet without sin, entered the Holy of Holies, not by slaughtering and animal, but by submitting to his own murder on the cross. His blood for ours. He, Himself, by the shedding of His blood, became the atoning sacrifice for all who call on His Name. We can serve the Living God only because Jesus traded His life for ours. At that point, the work of atonement was complete. Jesus breathed, “It is finished,” and it was.

The New Covenant, then, relies, not on the blood of bulls and goats and lambs and birds, but on the blood of Jesus. “This is the blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” he said. And by that same blood, we are sanctified, not just for a year, but for eternity (Hebrews 10).

Only by grace.

In many of our modern churches we spend time considering how to live in this broken world. We study how to rely on Jesus, how to navigate a culture that rejects the values we hold dear, and how to live. These are all worthwhile topics, to be sure, but I think regular reflection on the foundation that brings us to all the “how-tos” matters. The “how-to” topics are concrete expression, things we do, checklists we can keep to make sure we are on the “right” path. But the “how-to” conversations often lead away from grace into legalism and pharisaical mindsets. Checklists are not necessarily wrong; they can be helpful. But checklists cannot replace the blood of Jesus. Checklists may become idols. In fact, for most of us, the idolatry of what we do prevents us from living free in the grace of His abundant and joyful life. Focusing on the checklist means we focus on ourselves.

“Jesus, keep me near the cross,” Fanny Crosby (1869) wrote. “Near the cross! O Lamb of God, Bring its scenes before me; Help me walk from day to day With its shadow o’er me. In the cross, in the cross Be my glory ever, Till my ransomed soul shall find Rest beyond the river.”

We must remember the necessary sacrifice that secures our salvation and sustains our sanctification.

It is only by grace that we are redeemed. The blood of animals served only as a reminder that God’s holiness is unapproachable because, in our humanity, we are unworthy. The sacrifices of the old covenant were a picture, copies, shadows of the real redemption through Jesus’s blood. “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains” (Cowper, 1772). “Alas and did my Savior bleed, and did my Sovereign die? Would He devote that sacred head For sinners such as I?” (Watts, 1707). “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus” (Lowry, 1876). Only God’s grace, flowing from mercy and love as a gift to us as individuals can redeem us to the Body of believers (Jason Cook, 2021). Saved by grace, through faith, God’s gift.

God’s gift, given through the Blood of the Perfect Lamb. We must remember the necessary sacrifice that secures our salvation and sustains our sanctification. We must bow in abject gratitude and then proclaim His name. The focal point of our lives, the center of everything, is Jesus. His work, His perfection, His grace poured out on us delivered us. Thank you, Jesus, for the blood.

I was a wretch
I remember who I was
I was lost, I was blind
I was running out of time

Sin separated
The breach was far too wide
But from the far side of the chasm
You held me in your sight

So You made a way
Across the great divide
Left behind Heaven’s throne
To build it here inside

And there at the cross
You paid the debt I owed
Broke my chains, freed my soul
For the first time I had hope

Thank you Jesus for the blood applied
Thank you Jesus it has washed me white
Thank you Jesus You have saved my life
Brought me from the darkness into glorious light

You took my place
Laid inside my tomb of sin
You were buried for three days
But then You walked right out again

And now death has no sting
And life has no end
For I have been transformed
By the blood of the lamb

Thank You Jesus for the blood applied (thank You Jesus)
Thank You Jesus it has washed me white
Thank You Jesus You have saved my life
Brought me from the darkness into glorious light

There is nothing stronger
Than the wonder working power of the blood
The blood
That calls us sons and daughters
We are ransomed by our Father
Through the blood
The blood

There is nothing stronger
Of the wonder working power of the blood
The blood
That calls us sons and daughters
We are ransomed by the Father
Through the blood
The blood

Thank You Jesus for the blood applied
Thank You Jesus it have washed me white
Thank You Jesus You have saved my life
Brought me from the darkness into glorious light

Glory to His name
Glory to His name
There to my heart was the blood applied
Glory to His name

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Charity Gayle / John Hart Stockton / Bryan Mccleery /

David Gentiles / Ryan Kennedy / Steven Musso / Elisha Albright Hoffman

Take heart.

Matthew 14:14-33

At the church I attend here in Las Vegas we are working through a study of what it means to be a Jesus follower. This morning’s reading included then section of Matthew where Jesus walked on water. I went back a few verses for context and I think someone who reads this may find comfort.


Matthew relates how Jesus taught crowds and crowds of people. 5000 men did not include the women and children there who listened to His teaching and received healing. I’ve heard estimates of up to 20,000 individuals gathered there by the Sea of Galilee (aka Lake Tiberius). No matter the number, it was a lot of people in close proximity. In this particular case, evening came and the people grew hungry but didn’t want to miss Jesus. Instead of letting them go, Jesus told the disciples to feed them. And they did. Five loaves of bread and two fish become enough to feed everyone to satisfaction with 12 baskets left over.

Immediately after, Jesus told the disciples to take the boat across the lake while he dismissed the crowds. There’s no word about how long that took, but when then people dispersed, Jesus went to the mountain alone to pray. Jesus took the time he needed to isolate himself for time with the Father.


In the meantime, a storm broke out over the lake. It’s a big lake, and pop up storms are common. Many of the disciples were familiar with the sea and its storms, but evidently, this one was exceptionally strong. As the men are rowing with all their might to maintain control of the boat, they looked up. There was Jesus, walking on the water.

WALKING ON THE WATER IN THE STORM.


The disciples couldn’t believe what they saw, but Jesus called out to them, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid. “

It is I. Do not be afraid.


Maybe this current pandemic feels like the most terrifying storm you have ever seen. You feel like you are in the middle of it, rowing with all your might just so you won’t capsize.


You are not alone. “Take heart,” Jesus said. “Do not be afraid.” Whether it’s feeding a crowd or walking on a raging sea, Jesus is with us. Trust. Breathe. Pray. Love. Help one another. He’s got this.

Why grace as default?

There can be no question that Western culture stands on the precipice of an anti-Christian era. Many people, particularly in academia, have already dismissed Christianity as a nonsense philosophy that is dangerous to democracy. Incorrect assumptions abound, particularly regarding Jesus and the gospel. The assumptions are sometimes based in how people in the Church act toward each other. If the gospel is truly the foundation upon which we as believers build our lives, we must live according to the will of God, rather than the dictates of popular preachers, influencers, and policy. In short, we must treat each other the way Jesus taught us.

That begins with understanding the great love of God for us. Without that love, nothing we do matters. We must know it, understand is, receive it, and practice it. Jesus was clear, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35, ESV).

If we begin with love, we are able to see each other. Really see. We see the stories that make up the human condition and we are compelled to share burdens, rejoice together, grieve together, and come alongside each other (John 13:14; John 15: 17; Romans 12:10, 16; Romans 15: 5; 1 Corinthians 12:25-26; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Galatians 5:13; Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; Hebrews 10:24; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 4:7-11).

The goal of this blog and anything that may come from it, is to remind the church that we must love one another. Loving one another no matter what will continue to become more and more challenging as the culture wars progress, but love is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-40), and if we are in fellowship with the Father, if we are walking in the light of Jesus, then our fellowship with each other will stand as testimony to the power of the gospel.

Too often, however, we are quick to judge each other based on our own biases, fears, insecurities, and misapplications of scripture. God has put on my heart a burden for the hurting families in the church, families who feel judged, alone, and without the support of their brothers and sisters in Christ. The families for whom I write are those whose children have wandered far from the faith they were taught as children. There is a blemish on the church in how its members treat those whose loved ones follow the world instead of the Lord. Those who leave choose many paths: agnosticism, atheism, sexual impurity, , secularism, humanism, activism, and other forms of goodness according to the standards of Western culture. Other family members do not choose to leave the faith, but suffer debilitating mental illnesses, including depression, addiction, self-harm eating disorders, and suicide. Often the parents of these sufferers are judged because they are perceived in playing a part in how mental illness develops. Science has demonstrated over and over that much mental illness is genetic or idiopathic, not environmental, but for some reason, the church writ large has not taken up the challenge of supporting the mentally ill or their families.

The purpose of my work here is to share the stories of believing parents (and siblings) who have been largely overlooked, misunderstood, or judged by fellow Christians. Some stories may be based on true stories. Others will be compilations blended into a narrative that affords the storytellers a level of anonymity. In sharing the stories, I hope to bring to light specific scriptures to guide Christians in how to be the loving and grace-filled people Jesus calls us to be. When we choose grace over judgement or ambivalence, we begin to reflect the love of Christ as we live out the will of the Father.