According to a report by the Texas Heart Institute, about 230,000 heart bypass surgeries are successfully completed in the U.S. each year.
Undoubtedly, each of these patients are advised by their doctors that following this life-extending surgery, they must change their lifestyle, because as wonderful as the surgery is for extending their lifespan, it is at best only a temporary solution. They must change their diet, reduce stress, quit smoking and drinking, and exercise.
One might think that this experience would so grab the attention of the patients that they would be willing to make any lifestyle changes necessary to take advantage of this new lease on life.
Yet, according to some studies, within two years, as many as 90 percent of these patients have not significantly changed their lifestyle behavior from how they lived prior to their surgery.
No doubt, each of these patients received and understood the doctor's orders after surgery, so we can safely guess that their main problem is not "lack of education." If these patients want to live, they require a radical transformation of their motivation.
Change is hard. It is part of our weak human nature to want maximum benefit with minimum effort. This is true not only for the physical world. It is also reflected in our spiritual lives as well.
Throughout the past 25 weeks of "The Story," we have learned that sin is a constant companion in our human souls. Sin is any action or attitude that separates us from God's perfect intentions for us.
In the Old Testament, God provided a way for the people's sins to be dealt with through the sacrifice of innocent animals, but that was only a temporary fix.
With each unfolding chapter, it became increasingly clear that our human nature needed more than some mere spiritual adjustment. What was truly needed was not merely more education or adaptation, but a complete soul transformation provided from someone who did not have deal with their own sinfulness.
Over the past few weeks we have read about how Jesus Christ, God's perfect Son, came into this world to provide that soul transformation. Jesus was no ordinary man; He was God's Perfect Son, and by giving personal testimony to his own divinity, Jesus was declaring himself to be the only way back to a restored relationship with our Creator.
This week, Chapter 26 of "The Story" outlines just how Jesus will purchase that salvation with His own death on the cross for us. His death is the completed fulfillment of God's promises all the way from Adam, Abraham, Israel and prophets, to provide a once-and-for-all solution for our sins.
It is a hard story to read because it seems to unfair that Jesus, a man with no sin of His own, should die so horribly for our sins.
It is our belief in Jesus' death for our sins that transforms our souls — by God's gracious gift of mercy. To paraphrase Dietrich Bonhoeffer; the transformation of our souls is free, but it was not cheap. It cost the life of God's perfect Son, Jesus, the Christ.
The writer of Hebrews, compares the temporary nature of the Old Testament sacrifices with Jesus' ultimate sacrifice in these words: "(Jesus) did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves, but he entered the most holy place once and for all by His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption" (Hebrews 9:12).
As we enter the Holy Week that signifies the power of God's forgiveness, may we find the freedom of trusting completely and personally in God who does more than offer mere education or adaptation, but one whose Son provides life transformation.
To learn more about God's Upper Story plan to bring His love and forgiveness to us, you are welcome to join "The Story" team. For more information, visit www.thestorylodi.com or visit one of these local churches to find out more about The Story ministry: First Baptist Church, 267 N. Mills Avenue, 209-334-1332, www.fbclodi.com; Ham Lane Church of Christ, 600 S. Ham Lane, 209-369-2817, firstname.lastname@example.org; Temple Baptist Church, 801 S. Lower Sacramento Road, 209-369-1948, www.tbclodi.com; Vinewood Community Church, 1900 W. Vine Street, 209-379-1068, www.vinewoodchurch.com; Emanuel Lutheran Church, 1540 W. Lodi Avenue, 209-334-2130, www.emanuellodi.com.
Perry Kallis is senior pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Lodi.