Today is the annual Day of Atonement, one of the seven annual feasts or moedim (appointments) of the Lord. They are set apart days (holy days, or holidays) when the Lord meets with man, and man ceases from his daily labor and toil, which his sin and disobedience earned for him at the Fall, to meet with God.
So this annual Day of Atonement is national and corporate. My personal and individual Day of Atonement was the day my eyes were opened and I recognized my sins, and repented, and humbled myself to receive the atonement provided for me by the blood of Jesus on the cross. That day was in the first week of January, 1979.
I had been raised in the Lutheran church, and asked Jesus to come into my heart when I was five years old at vacation Bible school (that would be in the summer of 1966). I can still see the flannelgraph the retired couple used to present the Gospel story. I remember them asking me before they prayed with me, if I understood the story. Of course I did not understand the story. I was confused on several points. Doesn’t it take a lifetime to understand the Gospel, and then in eternity we will still wonder at the beauty and wisdom and magnificence of it?
But I nodded that I did understand it, because even at five, I realized that answering that question in the affirmative was a requirement for the prayer, and the prayer was a requirement for Jesus being in my heart, and that was my goal … I wanted Him!
You know, I have gone through Acts before, looking for the one formula that lay at the foundation of each salvation. “If we follow these steps, it will result in salvation …” kind of like Evangelism Explosion. But the root of salvation is the circumcised heart … and there is no formula that can produce that heart change in someone. It is truly in each case, a unique and individual creative act of the Holy Spirit.
So in that summer of 1966, my heart was circumcised to love and serve God … but then in the first week of January of 1979, my eyes were opened to my sin, and I repented of my sin, and with consciousness, knowledge, and thought, humbled myself before God and asked for and received the blood of Jesus as atonement for my sins.
Every year on the Day of Atonement, which is the national and corporate Day of Atonement, I remember the global Day of Atonement, the day of the cross, 2000 years ago. And I remember my individual and personal Day of Atonement, the day the cross was applied to me, 33 years ago.
I do not spend the Day of Atonement sorrowing over my sins. Daily, Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive me my trespasses, as I also forgive the trespasses of others.” Confession and repentance of sins — and freedom from the guilt of them — is built into our daily relationship and walk with God. But in the 40 days of teshuvah (reflection and repentance) which precedes the Day of Atonement, I reflect on the past year, and ask God to reveal to me my pattern of weaknesses, where I have consistently stumbled and fallen, in the past year. And He is faithful and just to do so.
He does not reveal to me my every sin and weakness. I think if He were to do that, we would be stricken down with the shame of it and not rise again. But I trust Him to reveal what He knows it is time for me to repent of and turn away from from … at this stage in my life. When I think of how infinite His grace is, it blows my mind! He doesn’t even allow Satan, who is the accuser of the brethren, to accuse us with everything we could be accused of, to protect us from being crushed under the weight of our sins!
Once I have received forgiveness, I have the joy of my salvation! I rejoice in Him on this day! But I do have sorrow on the Day of Atonement … and that is for those who the Lord has placed in my life, who have not yet experienced their personal and individual Day of Atonement. I am fasting and interceding for them today. May the Lord have mercy, and by a sovereign and creative act of the Holy Spirit, grant them a circumcised heart to love and serve Him!