Monday, January 19, 2009
Current Study: Reconciliation
Today’s Topic: Repentance Required
Today’s Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.
I came across an on-line book this morning that has a fascinating title. It’s called Christianity and Homosexuality Reconciled by Joseph Adam Pearson, Ph.D. The title caught my attention because it contradicts itself. I’m sure the author of the book would disagree, but as I scanned the book I discovered why he would disagree – he has a secular and not sacred view of reconciliation. You see, the secular definition of reconciliation is “to bring unity again”, or “to put at harmony again”. The problem with that definition is that nothing is mentioned about change, and according to the Scriptures, reconciliation is all about change. In fact, the Greek word the Apostle Paul uses in his writings that is translated reconciliation in our language means simply “to change completely”. In his very first chapter the author makes it clear that God is not so interested in our physical being as He is our spiritual, and that the spiritual can be reconciled to Him without physical change. In other words, your faith does not have to be proved by your works.
Now, before I go on, I must say that the Christian church in general has done a very poor job of responding to people who are caught in the bondage of any sin. But the saving power of Jesus Christ changes lives, it doesn’t enable sin. Can sinners be saved? Of course. Jesus said He came to seek and to save those who are lost. Can saved people still sin? Of course. We all do. But can saved people renounce the power and work of the Holy Spirit in them who is creating the character of Jesus Christ and moving them toward holiness? NO! That’s why true reconciliation with God requires repentance from sin. How does one justify even the secular definition of reconciliation when unity and harmony with Holy God is not possible when we intentionally continue in what God calls sin?
True reconciliation not only requires change but actually results in change. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! What a fantastic concept! Every part of our lives that was once connected to and controlled by sin is gone when we are in Christ. We are a new creation, and according to Paul in Ephesians 2:10, we are created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God ordained for us to live in. This sounds like change. Change in spiritual standing before God. Change in social behavior before man. The old and deceptive philosophy of Gnosticism that man is only concerned with the spirit and cannot be involved with the physical is still alive today, and is being used to support all sorts of fleshly and sinful desires of man. Paul makes it very clear that when we are in Christ, we are to put off all the activity of the flesh so that our lives are lived in righteousness and holiness. He says, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:17-24)
When we come to Christ for salvation, admitting to and repenting of our sinful nature, not just sinful activity, He changes us. The very life of Jesus Christ is created in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. We are new. Our minds are transformed. Our actions will follow our hearts. We are designed in our salvation to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
One more thing. When we study the depth of the word reconciliation in Scripture, we discover that in addition to requiring complete change it also involves restoration to a former status. What former status is that? I think it is clear from Scripture that we are to be restored to the status we had with God prior to sin entering the world. It is so hard to write about this without getting long and deep into theology, but let me just quickly state that when we are saved, we are declared by God to be holy once and for all. (Hebrews 10:14) This is our justification. We are declared not guilty. (Romans 5) At that moment, we are sanctified, meaning we are set apart for God’s distinct purpose in our lives. (1 Cor. 6:11 ; 1 Thess. 4:3 ; 1 Thess. 5:23) But that sanctification will not be complete until these fleshly bodies are transformed into the likeness of Jesus in glory when He returns. Until then, we groan and long for the fulfillment of our redemption. (Romans 8:23) Our spirits have been redeemed. Our bodies will be redeemed in the presence of Christ. But until then, God requires our best effort to bring our bodies into subjection so that we live in true righteousness and holiness. Our reconciliation to God has already accomplished our spiritual restoration to our former status. Our lives on this earth are to be lived so that they reflect the glory of our spiritual condition. (1 John 3:1-3) Then one day, our bodies will be transformed and reconciled to the former status of sinless perfection in the presence of Christ. Hallelujah! That’s reconciliation – complete and eternal.