26. Reconciled

Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 26. Reconciled

Col 1:20  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Our verse today comes at the end of a truly glorious paragraph that describes Christ who is displayed as the image of God (v.15), creator with the Father (v.16), the one who holds all things together (v.17), head of the church as the firstborn from the dead (v.18), expressing all the fulness of God (v.19) and the one who has reconciled all things to God (v.20).

We live in a Fallen World where Sin prevails, and the world is broken, no longer perfect as it was when God first made it. Things go wrong in it. It was Tennyson in his monumental poem, ‘In Memoriam’ who made famous the phrase, “Nature, red in tooth and claw”, encapsulating the state of this fallen world. This is how the world is, which makes Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah’s peace in 11:6-9 so dramatic.

We tend to focus on the reconciliation with the Father, but this verse seems to suggest that, in respect of the earth, it is much bigger than that; it is a picture that suggests that through the cross, one day there will come a time when everything that we know will be brought into peace and harmony.

We are told that in the present age, Christ is ruling at his Father’s right hand, establishing the kingdom (see 1 Cor 15:24-26) and that one day he will return to fully establish it on the earth (see Rev 19). There is in Romans 8 what can only be described as a mysterious passage (v.18-22) that speaks of the creation groaning (v.22)  as it, “waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed” (v.19). Somehow there is a link between us and this world whereby our presence, it seems, should impact and change the very way the world works. That, at least, is what is implied by these sorts of verses.

But on safer ground, this reconciliation means between us and God and that includes both Jew and Gentile: “and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.” (Eph 2:16). How was this peace, this reconciliation between us and God, brought about? “through his blood, shed on the cross”, seen in terms of the Passover lamb being slain and being seen as the sacrifice for sins, and seen as the punishment to end all punishments. Justice has been satisfied and thus any obstacle between us and the Father has been removed. The way is open for the Son of God, ruling at his Father’s right hand to express himself through his church to bring peace and harmony on the earth. Are we up to it?

39. Reconciled to be Holy

Meditations in Colossians: 39. Reconciled to be holy

Col 1:22    But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

I do like ‘joining words’. ‘But’ sets off the present verse against the previous one. In the previous verse Paul had reminded us what we were like before we came to Christ, but he doesn’t want to leave it there. For every negative about our past there are many positives about our present and future and so Paul turns the coin over, so to speak, to remind them and us what God did about these helpless and hopeless individuals who he had described as “alienated from God and … enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.”  Yes, that’s what we had been like, but God didn’t leave us like that.

No, He came and “reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death.” We considered the theme of reconciliation in verse 20, seeing it was the bringing together of two people at odds with each other when the conflict is dealt with and peace is restored. This reconciliation between God and us was brought about by Jesus’ death on the Cross. Now we have touched on that a number of times and so don’t need to spend time on it now. It is the result of his work on the Cross which stands out in this present verse, that having dealt with our Sin, our sins and our guilt on the Cross, we stand before God with all those three things removed – at least from sight. The power of Sin has been broken, the sins that spoke against us have been removed, and the guilt that ensued has also been removed and transferred to the body of Christ on the Cross.

I don’t know if you ever watch those dramas where they jump back in time to do recaps in a person’s life. Well, when we came to Christ, there was immediately a jumping back in time so that all of those three things in your life were taken back and put upon Christ as he hung on the Cross. We’ve used the illustration before, that C.S.Lewis came up with, of the picture of God standing outside of time, looking down from above on a line that is history, so He sees both our present and any other moment in history. When He looks at us when we bow before him confessing our sins and believing in Jesus, His eyes take those things from us and He sees them being dealt with by His Son on the Cross. When He looks back to us, they are gone.

Now that is the truth that is conveyed in the Scriptures. We have it in our verse above: to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”   When He first created us in the form of Adam and Eve, we were holy, made in His image. Christ’s work on the Cross takes us back to that original state as far as God is concerned. When He looks back to us, so to speak, from Christ on the Cross He sees us as holy people, without blemish and free from any accusation from justice or from Satan. That IS how we are in God’s sight as a result of the work of Christ on the Cross.

Now this word ‘holy’ bears some further thought because I think most of us struggle with the idea that we are now to be considered ‘holy’, especially when we look at our lives and see how imperfect they are. How can we be holy?

The big call to holiness comes through the book of Leviticus which is all about ceremonial law which relates to maintaining a right relationship with the Lord. A number of times we come across the call to be holy. The call to be a holy people though came first at Sinai: “you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Ex 19:6) That was reiterated in the Law that was given there: “You are to be my holy people.” (Ex 22:31)

Although there are many more references to the holy in Exodus the force of it doesn’t really come until Leviticus when we find, “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves about on the ground. I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.” (Lev 11:44,45) We did in fact look quite extensively at this subject of being holy right back in the second of these studies so I won’t prolong this too much here. The next call in Leviticus is, “The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: `Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy,” (Lev 19:2) and then You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.” (Lev 20:26) The apostle Peter brings this into New Testament Christianity: “just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Pet 1:15,16)

Now what all these references do is link us to God’s being. When we are linked to God we are linked to the holy – because He IS holy (separate, distinct, perfect, unlike any other). Through the work of Jesus on the Cross, that has been legally established: in His sight we ARE holy. That opens the door for us to be forgiven, cleansed and adopted and having been adopted as His sons or children, He places His Holy Spirit within us.

We are now truly one with him as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me.” (Jn 17:20-23)

That reflects Jesus’ teaching at the Last Supper: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (Jn 14:16-20) He starts by speaking of the Holy Spirit and ends by speaking of his own presence being in them; it is one and the same thing. We ARE holy because Jesus has made it legally so, and we ARE holy because he indwells us by his Spirit. The Father sees us as holy and has given us the resource to live out this holiness. Hallelujah!

10. Ongoing Salvation

Meditations in Romans : 10:  Ongoing Salvation

Rom 5:9,10   Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Note again the order of what Paul has been saying in this chapter. First of all he spoke of what I have called the fruit of justification – peace with God and access to His grace (v.1-2) which enables us to rejoice in who we are and even in trying circumstances (v.2,3) which build perseverance, character and hope in us (v.4,5). But then, just to make sure we don’t get carried away with any ideas of self-effort or pride, he reminds us that we were powerless, ungodly sinners when God loved us and sent Jesus to die for us (v.6-8)

Now he seeks to reassure us about the ongoing nature of our salvation. The starting point was our justification when we came to Christ. At that moment we were born again and changed, and it was all because of Christ’s blood, because of what he had achieved on the Cross. We do need to come back to that basic truth again and again, that we are what we are because of what Jesus has achieved on the Cross. It is entirely because of what HE has done that we are justified.

So look, says Paul, if at the moment of conversion we have been justified by what HE has done, doesn’t that mean even more that we will be saved from God’s wrath that is due to sinners, as we go on in this new Christian life? The whole point of Him justifying us is so that we no longer have to come under God’s judgment because our sin and its guilt have been dealt with. Justice has been appeased and no longer cries out for the things we have done or will do, to be judged, because Jesus has completely dealt with all that. The future, as God’s children, is judgment free!

Then to make the point even more forcibly, it’s as if he goes on, look, stop and think about this a bit more. We saw just now (and agreed) that we were powerless, ungodly sinners when Christ died for us.  In other words we were still clearly his enemies when he died for us. We had nothing to commend us, nothing beyond HIS love to warrant him doing what he did. So if he died for us when we were still his enemies, how much more will he think and feel about us now that we have been reconciled to him and brought into relationship with him and made His sons?

Christ’s death was the thing that enabled us to be reconciled to God – and that has now happened. Because his love for us was so obvious by his going to the Cross for us, how much more must he feel now we have been made part of his family, children of God? If it was good before we came to know him, how much more wonderful must it be not that we have come to know him. Remember, we didn’t contribute to any of that; it was all the free gift of God. We didn’t earn it then and we can’t earn His blessing now.

This is a very simple and straight forward argument and it is simply Paul reassuring us about our future. Some of the Jews in Rome might have been wondering about God’s feelings towards them and, indeed, some of us might wonder similarly thinking, “Oh my goodness, what have I done? What is God going to demand of me know? Have I just opened the door to receive God’s ongoing corrective anger?”

No, the truth is that when we were justified, God dealt with all of His anger against sin, because our sin and guilt had been transferred to Jesus so there was nothing left for Him to be angry about. And if He loved us while He was making that provision, how much more will He express His love towards us now that all that sin and guilt have been taken away and we’ve been made His sons.

Imagine a modern prodigal son type of picture. A son goes away and ends up in the mud of the pigsty, a total mess. In this story the loving Father comes along and says, “Do you want me to help you?” The Son replies, “Yes,” and so the Father hauls him out of the pigsty, hoses him down and then takes him to a spa clinic where he is further washed and cleansed and treated with oils. Now that is the equivalent of our being justified.  Do you think the son in this story is worrying about what is yet to come? Maybe, in our thinking at least, he worries that he is going to get a thorough telling off for having got himself in such a predicament and be put through harsh training to ensure he never goes back to the pigsty. But if he wondered that, he is ignoring the wonder of what his Father has just done. If the Father has so graciously saved him, washed and cleansed him, he’s not going to beat up on him now. No, every sign in what has happened says his Father is just very glad his son has been able to be rescued and the future can now be spent in just entering into being a proper son again and enjoying all the benefits of being part of this family. This is what Paul is saying in these verses. Rejoice, for God has saved us for good days ahead! Hallelujah!

7. The Way of Return

Meditations in 1 John : 7 :  The Way of Return

1 John  1:9   If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness

The whole thing about the Christian faith is that it is about returning to God. The work of salvation on the Cross by Christ was so that we, who were hostile to God and His enemies, could be reconciled to Him: For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Rom 5:10,11) The Christian life is all about being brought near to God with our sins forgiven and dealt with on the Cross, so that He, by His Spirit, may work in us to conform us (make us like) His Son, Jesus. That was why Paul said, “we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness.” (2 Cor 3:18).

This reconciliation was made possible by Christ’s work on the Cross, and came into practical being when we surrendered our lives to him and became a Christian. From then on it was all about access to God and Him having access to me.

But of course we all know the experience of having blown it and feeling a million miles away from God. Yet that isn’t actually how it is, it’s just how it feels it is. We briefly mentioned this previously but from God’s side He has not turned away from us, but Christ is active on our behalf: “But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 Jn 2:1)  Yes, this is the truth: when we get it wrong, Jesus speaks up on our behalf. I imagine him turning to the Father and saying, “Father, I died for them. Please send the Spirit to draw them back to us, send Him to draw them back into that daily relationship with us, for I have done my part by dying for them, so their sins are dealt with.” This is the intent of the Godhead, to draw us back into relationship with them.

So how does He do that? The Spirit comes and convicts us of what we have done wrong. How does he do that? He simply speaks to us again and again and reminds us that it was wrong and that we will lack peace until we have dealt with it. Our conscience is that part of us that weighs ethical issues, moral issues that need facing, and the Spirit comes and speaks to us at conscience level and reminds us what, deep down, we already know: we got it wrong – and we can’t just leave it.

This latter issue is an important and significant issue. As we said, deep down we know within ourselves that we have done wrong and we know that we have hurt or offended the Father and that there is an unresolved issue between us. You see exactly the same thing when a child breaks lose against a parent. Nothing may be said but the child knows that it has offended the parent and done wrong. We see it in children and in adults; there is often a ‘making up’ behaviour that follows by the offender, an artificial brightness that tries to gloss over what happened. Yet the truth is that we know that this is not right and experience tells us that the only way to properly deal with it is to own up, face it and say sorry.

Perhaps because of this, throughout the Bible forgiveness only follows repentance, that facing up to our wrongs and saying sorry. And that, at last, brings us to our verse above which, when we have come to the place of confession, acknowledgement of our wrong and request for forgiveness, brings great reassurance. Unlike some world religions, or even misguided parts of the Christian Church, we will never get back to God by working to appease God and show Him how good we really are – because He knows the truth and knows that this side of heaven we will always need the sanctifying work of the Spirit changing us. And, of course, He has laid down the appropriate way for our sins to be dealt with.

Christ has taken every sin in his body on the Cross and so every sin has been dealt with, but that has to be applied to every individual human being and it can only be applied when they acknowledge their state and their need and accept what Christ has done for them. Then and only then does the work of Christ on the Cross apply to them.

But it is more than that because as we have noted in both this and the previous meditation, this side of heaven we will still need the sanctifying work of the Spirit changing us, because we can still get it wrong. Yet even every new failure has already been dealt with on the Cross, for Christ died for every sin ever committed, past, present, and future. But that still needs applying and the way it is applied is by us facing the sin and confessing it.

It is at that point – and the first part of the verse is down to us – that the work of Christ kicks in and we can be assured that God will remain true (faithful) to Himself and to His word, and so we can be guaranteed that when we do confess, then He WILL forgive. It is that simple but sometimes we struggle to accept that simplicity and so feel after we’ve confessed we still need to prove to God that we are good. No we’re not, but our intent is to be.

So, if you are aware that you have a bad attitude towards God or against any other person, or if you are aware that you have said or done something you know you ought not to have said or done, then realize the truth and respond according to this verse. Amen? Amen!