This is the two-hundred-first lesson in author and pastor Mel Lawrenz’ How to Live the Bible series. If you know someone or a group who would like to follow along on this journey through Scripture, they can get more info and sign up to receive these essays via email here.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.”
“Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” John 1:29-34
Back at the beginning, before Jesus had even called his first disciples, there was a moment of revelation. A wild-looking prophet named John, who was baptizing people in the Jordan River and preaching about God reigning as King, encountered Jesus of Nazareth. He looked at Jesus (who was John’s own cousin), and God opened John’s eyes to see that this was the one he had been prophesying about.
“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” is what John said. What he meant was: “Look! There is our salvation! There is the one whom all of the sacrifices in the Old Testament are pointing to. God has promised to take away our sin—and now that is becoming a reality!”
The dilemma all of us face is this: What can we do with all of the mistakes, the transgressions, the shortcomings, and the sins we commit? What does God make of us? Is it really possible that God is willing to forgive?
God doesn’t merely forgive sinners. He “takes away” our sin. His forgiveness is so powerful, so complete, that it is appropriate to believe our sin has been “taken away.” And the sign that God has really done that is that Jesus, like a sacrificial lamb, took our sin upon himself and carried it away.
What makes it hard for us to believe Jesus has “taken away” our sin? Is it because sometimes we hold on to it? And if so, for what reason do we do this?
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Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s teaching pastor. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel’s many books include Spiritual Leadership Today: Having Deep Influence in Every Walk of Life (Zondervan, 2016). See more of Mel’s writing at WordWay.