Atonement is an incredible gift from God. The fact that the Almighty Creator of the universe would look down on one of the millions of individuals in the world, hear their cry of repentance and forgive their sin is astounding! As we approach the biblical “Day of Atonement,” or “Yom Kippur” in Hebrew, my heart is overflowing with gratitude.
What exactly is atonement? Though I certainly do not have the space in this short article to go into great detail, the basic idea of atonement is that one’s sins are covered before God. You were once stained by sin and would receive the consequences in this life and give an account for them in the world to come. God, in His great mercy, heard your repentance and provided atonement. Those sins are no longer laid to your charge.
That makes theological sense, but why would God so generously provide atonement for us? God created this world as a place for us to dwell with Him. The garden of Eden was an incredible haven of peace where God “walked” with man in “the cool of the day.” Because of our sin we were separated from God. Sin kept us from God. God longed to dwell with us so He made a way of atoning for our sins, reconciling us back to Him.
Obviously, for us Christians, we see many comparisons in the Day of Atonement and the atoning work that Yeshua did on the cross. We believe that by Yeshua’s blood we have been atoned for and given eternal life. This view is foundational to our faith, however, I think there is one element of atonement that many of us as Christians have missed.
At first glance, the Day of Atonement might look like a day to punish ourselves to receive God’s favor. After all, we are commanded to “afflict our souls.” Could this be the first biblical reference to asceticism? We also see where biblical characters would put on sackcloth and ashes or go out into the wilderness for weeks. Is this the basis for why Christians have promoted celibacy, living in isolation, taking vows of silence, putting stones in their shoes, etc…?
A closer look at each of these biblical examples shows a few very big differences between them and asceticism. When the people of Nineveh put on sackcloth and ashes they were repenting for their sins and asking God not to destroy them. The end goal was for them to be able to live righteous lives that would not provoke God. It was not to continue living the rest of their lives in sackcloth and ashes!
When Yeshua went out into the wilderness for a time, He did not stay there! The goal was to go out for a short time to prepare himself to begin His ministry.
On Yom Kippur we fast one day in order to focus on God and His will for us, identifying the areas where we have gone off track. The goal is to get right with God and continue living a full and fruitful life.
Asceticism promotes extreme self-denial as a lifestyle, whereas the Scriptures promote a certain level of self-denial when it comes to sinful desire and, in all other cases, a temporary preparation or repentance.
We can now identify a huge difference in worldviews. The asceticism worldview says that this world is only evil and we should not enjoy a second of it. The faster we escape this world and its ways the better! The biblical worldview promotes a full and fulfilled life here on earth. God not only provided atonement in order for us to have eternal life but also so that we can have life on this earth! The intent from the very beginning was for Him to dwell with us on earth. That is why He created us!
I think we Christians have been more affected by the “asceticism” worldview than we think. We have spiritualized everything until all we have left is a mystic religion that has almost no relevance to life on this earth. More than that, it has no vision for life on this earth. Maybe that is why some of our young people are falling away from the faith!
The Scripture says: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). “Perish” means to die. What leads to death? Sin. So you could say, “Where there is no vision, the people sin and die.” Atonement has a purpose. It is not only to cleanse you from the past but also to enable you to live before God here on this earth.
God has a vision and purpose for this world. He wants to restore the earth and reconcile all people back to Him. He wants to dwell with His people on the earth that He created for that purpose. He wants to atone for you so that we can be together forever in eternity AND so that we can live righteous, holy lives with Him on this earth.
The “asceticism” worldview has stolen the vision of a redeemed earth and people from Christianity. This thievery has also made irrelevant the importance of physical Israel and Jerusalem, successfully severing our umbilical cord of spiritual sustenance.
God chose Israel to bring light, life, and truth to the world. Christians, on this Yom Kippur, let’s recognize our atonement and start acting on it! Start living a life that God can indwell. Connect to literal Israel as God’s chosen vessel to bring blessing to all the families of the earth. May we see His kingdom come and His will being done on earth as it is in Heaven!