Monday, February 14, 2011

Precious Reconciliation

"Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ."

- 2 Corinthians 5:17-18

One of the things I hate the most is when I have a broken relationship and cannot mend it. On the other hand, when a broken relationship is mended I experience all sorts of emotions including intense relief and unspeakable joy. The most important relationship I have ever had mended was the one that I have with Jesus. Before I accepted Christ as my Savior, my sin made me an enemy of God and in a sense the relationship I was created to have with Him was broken. The passage above makes it clear that I have been reconciled to God, not Him to me. That is because I was the one who sinned against Him, thereby breaking the relationship we were supposed to have. I, just like Adam and Eve, had the tendency to hide and withdraw from Him because of my sinful heart. There are three scriptures that explain my need to be reconciled to God. First, Colossians 1:20-21 says that I was alienated from God, hostile in my mind, and was engaged in evil deeds. It is interesting to note that at the time these verses were written that gentiles were alienated from God because the covenants God had previously given were given to the nation of Israel. Hostile in mind means that I was hateful toward God in my attitudes and choices. It is so easy to want to minimize the evilness of our sin. But the reality is that sin is a hateful action towards God. When we continue in sin it indicates that we resent His holy standards and His commands. Because those commands reflect His character, we are resenting and rebelling against Him. John 3:19-20 says, "…loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest His deeds should be exposed." Isaiah also says it pretty eloquently in Isaiah 59:2, "Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear." Oh, that I would never lose sight of the grace that Christ offered me. He has reconciled me to our Holy and loving Father. I have been given the opportunity to be in a relationship with the very one whom I have offended and with whom I have been an enemy. That is grace.

When two people are at odds it is usually easy to see that each person had a part in the conflict that separated them. But in my broken relationship with God, I was the only one who had done wrong. This is because God is holy and just. His wrath against sin must be appeased in some way. According to Jeremiah 10:10, God's wrath is not a laughing matter, but a scary one, "At His wrath the earth quakes, the nations cannot endure His indignation." Those who refuse to accept Christ have the wrath of God remaining on them. Christ died to appease God's wrath towards mankind, which is what has enabled me to have an intimate relationship with Him -- "Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." (Romans 5:9). Occasionally I get so used to the idea of reconciliation that I am no longer grateful for it. That is when I need to read and meditate on Isaiah 53 and the accounts of Christ's crucifixion. The physical suffering He endured is hard to fathom, but the emotional suffering impacts me to the core. He was falsely accused, His trials illegal, brutally beaten, and mocked by the men He came to die for. I think the most crucial part of the story is the anguish that He had to bear as our sin was laid upon Him when He bore the full brunt of the Father's wrath for our sin. The way I came to comprehend the significance of it was to think of a time in which I came back from a place where I had a spiritual "high". It is one of those times I felt so close to God that I never wanted to sin again because I was so in love with Him. Then I messed up. The anguish and pain at how easily I could sin after having been so close to God made me sick and made me feel alone. Then when I think how Christ must have felt when the sin of the entire human race was laid upon Him. The words He spoke in that moment -- "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" -- were spoken with such passion and desperation. His words would reflect our own cries had He not died.

While I want others to understand the payment that was paid, I also want to remind them to bask in the knowledge that God's love for them motivated Him to provide a means for their reconciliation. Romans 5:8 says, "God demonstrated His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." It’s hard to understand that while I was enjoying my sin that God chose to send His son to die for me. It’s even harder to understand why His son would agree to lay His life down for me so that I can be brought into a right relationship with God. I hope that I never forget that our eternal life with God required a bloody violent sacrificial death. I hope I never forget that God's demonstration of love required that He and His beloved Son face rejection. I hope I never take for granted my imputed holiness, which required Christ to take on my sin. I hope I never forget His desperate cry from the cross when I utter the precious words "Abba -- Daddy." Doesn’t that kind of love demand a response of passionate obedience from me?

Father, thank you for choosing to reconcile us to You through Christ's death. We know we do not deserve it Your act of grace. Please help us to never take our reconciliation for granted. For it was by the blood of Christ that we were given the titles of friend, children of God, and joint heirs with Christ. Help us to love You with passionate obedient hearts that are full of thanksgiving. Amen.

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!