THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION

(2Corinthians 5:17-19) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old is gone, the new is here!  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 people’s sins against them.  And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Last week I wrote about God’s amazing plan to bring us back to what he desired for us from the beginning.  He reconciled us through the sacrifice of his only begotten Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus took our sins upon him and paid the price that we were unable to pay.  So here we are a new creation before God.  He has given us the promise of eternal life – never to be separated from him again.  Can we share a WOW! 

What are we going to do to show our gratitude for this great gift?  We don’t have to do anything to earn this gift because it has already been given.  The Apostle Paul tells us what God wants us to do to show our gratitude.  He has given us the “Ministry of Reconciliation”.  He wants us to tell those we live among: “that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” 

Yes, as you think about it, this message is not necessarily going to be received as the good news.  People don’t always believe it, and some simply want to go on sinning.  They are often offended by the message.  Jesus told us to be as wise as serpents, but be as gentle as doves since our ministry is not always effective by using the direct approach.  I have always tried to live in the joy and hope God has given me. I’ve worked to love people, care for them, and pray for them, while waiting for the time to come when their heart is opened to receive the message.  This is how I have approached the ministry of reconciliation, but we are all uniquely gifted by God to share the message in the way he has designed us. 

In loving gratitude, let’s continue to tell of the wonderful, miraculous gift God has given us.  Our sins have been forgiven, and we have eternal life with him available to us.  Thanks be to God that he has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation.

THE DEPTHS OF GOD’S LOVE FOR US

(John 3:16) For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

(Genesis 2:15-17) The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

(Romans 6:23) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Galatians 4:4&5) But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

In John 3:16 it is stated that God so loved the world.  We are part of the world he loves.  Since we are loved so much, he definitely doesn’t want us to perish.  In the verses from Genesis, we find the warning from God not to eat from the forbidden tree.  Adam ate from the forbidden tree and brought sin and death into our world.  As a result, we all have the sinful nature from our ancestor Adam; therefore, we are all under the sentence of death that Adam received.  This presented a dilemma for God.  He loves us all and wants us to be with him eternally.

God is just, so the sentence of death had to be carried out; but God, who is never surprised by events, saw this coming, and he made a plan to redeem us.  He sent his one and only son.  Jesus came to earth, took our sins upon himself, and paid for them with his death on the cross. He fulfilled the requirements of the law for us all.  Our death sentence was cancelled.  Justice was served, and God’s redemption plan was completed.

God loves us, and he demonstrated the depth of his love for us by sending his one and only Son to the cross.  Through this great and terrible sacrifice, redemption has been accomplished.  I believe that he is now eager for us to come to him.  God has given us opportunity for the eternal life that he always intended for us.

A DEPRAVED MIND

In my concern for our country, I would like to spark some Biblical insight about what is happening to America.  Last week I shared that countries will be judged for their wickedness.  Today I’d like to give some thoughts on what is wrong with our thinking.  Have you noticed that our leaders seem especially irrational in their thinking?

In Romans chapter one the Apostle Paul explains how rejecting God affected our thinking.  Romans 1:21, For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

If you think there isn’t a God, you fit in well with the liberal thinking of our times.  However, America was founded with the idea that there is a God who is identified in the Bible.  There is certainly still enough evidence to this conjecture to be convincing.  No doubt there are many who would like to destroy this evidence, but let’s get back to our investigation of the problem with our thinking.

Romans 1:28-30, Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.  They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.  They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents.

In God we find the source of wisdom.  We think we’re intelligent, but without God we falter in our use of knowledge.  Sin gets in the way of our ability to think rationally.  We need God!  He is our only hope!  Unless we repent and turn to God, we are doomed to continue in our futility and irrational sin driven thinking.

THE NATIONS WILL BE JUDGED

Is anyone concerned?  Is anyone fearful?  I’ve been reading in the Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.  They speak of Israel’s sin against God, and the pending doom that awaited them.  Jeremiah 9:3 states,

“They make ready their tongue like a bow, to shoot lies; it is not by truth that they triumph in the land.  They go from one sin to another; they do not acknowledge me,” declares the Lord.

We are not Israel, but we are a blessed nation.  Did the blessings come from our own hand, or did they come from God?  Can we escape the doom of Israel as we continue to reject God? Are we exempt?  Though it reads on our coins “In God we trust”, we as a nation do not.  We have gone our own way, and we refuse to acknowledge God.  When Israel strayed and turned its back on God, the surrounding nations, the descendants of Ishmael, harassed them.  I find it most interesting that the eyes of Ishmael’s descendants are now turned to the U.S.  We have now become the great evil.  Ishmael is against us.  Is it by accident that this has happened?

If indeed God does not exist, as many now declare, then we have nothing to worry about.  I believe God does exist, and he created us. We as a people belong to him.  I also believe that God has the right to and will judge nations.  Individuals are judged after death, but nations are judged here and now.  If this is true, the people of the U.S. should be concerned; we should be fearful.  I close with this warning from Hebrews 10:30-31,

For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

THE DEVIL’S SCHEMES

I had eye surgery this week so this is a repost.  I’ve been aware that our sequestering is an opportunity for the Devil to turn us against each other.  Negative thoughts can be whispered in our ears to cause us to think badly about those we love.  This is a reminder I needed to hear.  I hope it helps you.

 

Ephesians 6:10-12

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

We have an enemy that we cannot see.  This enemy is of the spiritual world.  How do we defend ourselves?  The ensuing list from Ephesians 6 tells us with this armor analogy:

The belt of truth

The breastplate of righteous

Feet fitted with the readiness of the gospel of peace

The shield of faith (which extinguishes the flaming arrows of the evil one)

The helmet of salvation

The sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God)

These are to help us stand against the devil’s schemes.  Let’s take a look at how the devil works.

In Genesis chapter three we get our first look at the enemy’s methods.  He uses three devices.  One, question the truth, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”  Two, dispel the truth, “You will not surely die.”  Three, set a temptation, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.”

Here’s an example of how it plays out today.  Everybody says that drugs are bad, but are they?  You surely won’t become addicted.  Look at all the fun your friends are having.  You don’t want to miss out.

Yes, the scheme is still the same, and we are just as vulnerable as Eve.  The way these lies are communicated is through suggestions, whispers in the ear, or through someone who has already bought the lie.  The devil is always scheming.  The plan is to steal, kill and destroy (See John 10:10). He and his helpers are constantly busy.  What lies and temptation is he setting before you?

GOD’S KIND OF LOVE

God’s love is other oriented. God’s love is self-denying.  I’m relying simply on what Jesus demonstrated on the cross to make these statements. Jesus thought about us. He put our need for salvation before his own needs.

God’s love is personal. As Jesus ministered with his disciples, he knew each one of them individually. They were intimately involved in Jesus’ mission.

Today we are recipients of God’s kind of love. He continues to look to us and our needs. He knows us personally and draws us into his family.

1Peter 1:17-21 MSG, Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no after-thought. Even though it has only lately – at the end of the ages – become public knowledge, God always knew that he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.

SAVED SINNERS

(Romans 3:23) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

I’m a sinner. Now say it with me; I’m a sinner. Sin is a part of our human nature since the first rebellious act. However, this is only part of the truth. Romans 3:24 completes the truth, “And are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”

In my life, especially in my early years, I did some rather awful things. How should I deal with this? King David gives me an example. In Psalm 51, he repents before God for his sin with Bathsheba. He starts, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.” David knew that God loved him. He understood the love that God has for us which God eventually demonstrated by sending his son Jesus to suffer and die for our sins.

David also asked God to cleanse him from his sin. In God’s sight, faith in Jesus Christ has indeed cleansed us of our sins. Our sins are no longer remembered against us. Psalm 103:12 says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”

What I learned from King David in Psalm 51 is to humbly repent before God, and he will be faithful to forgive my sins. In Psalm 51:17 He says, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

It is great to be forgiven!

The celebration of the Easter season is upon us. Let’s take time to meditate on the amazing grace God has given us through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus.

LIVING THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – CONCLUSION

Romans 12:20-21(MSG) Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

 

Feeding the poor and hungry takes a new slant when applied to “my enemy”. Personally, I can’t think of anyone I’d call my enemy. There are obviously unnamed enemies looking to do harm generally, but they’re not people I know. I think this is more than about feeding and providing drink for my enemy. This is about perspective on a person who is against me, and it correlates directly to the concluding sentence of our scripture.

The last sentence of Romans chapter 12 concludes all the challenges I’ve talked about in my writings on living the Christian life. “Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.” Unfortunately, the way I respond to evil is often with evil. When I respond to evil with evil, I obviously indulge evil. I often wind up doing greater evil than the evil that was done to me. When it is all over, I am often horrified by what I’ve done. Evil has gotten the best of me.

When I look over my past sins, I can see where doing something different would have been the better choice, yet in that moment my response was to lash out. As with all my attempts to live the Christian life, the reality is that I can’t do it without Jesus. I constantly need Jesus to guide me. Only with Jesus’ help can I get the best of evil by doing good.

GOD AMONG US

As we join together in celebrating God coming to be among us, I wanted to offer something I wrote back in 2014. We remember that Christmas is celebrating God’s plan for victory over sin and death. I hope your Christmas is full of joy and peace. Merry Christmas!

 

The recent flood of movies based on ancient mythology depicts gods with the more base human characteristics of violence, greed, covetousness and murder. The hero god battles the dark side and wins in the end. What a great story line! The same basic story line found in the popular super hero movies. I love them. I’ve been to many. We all love to see good win over evil. There seems to be a feeling of vindication when the hero wins. I like feeling vindicated.  But, (you knew a but was coming) what if the evil that needs to be defeated is inherent in us? You know those base human characteristics. How’s a super hero or a god going to overcome that?

Now think how the actual event of God walking among us differs from the good vs. evil stories we all love. Jesus came as a helpless baby. He walked unassumingly on the earth as one of us. Who knew that he was an all-powerful being through whom the earth was created? He never whipped out his sword and killed the bad guys. Actually, the bad guys killed him. But, (Yes, we know this but.) He rose from the dead. Now there’s a great story line, and it’s a true story. Don’t you love those stories based on real events. It seems to give the story a lot more impact.

Yes, a great story, but how was the victory won? He didn’t kill all of us who have inherent evil. We’re grateful for that. What he did do was:

Romans 8:3b God….. (sent) his own son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man…

By surrendering himself (all-powerful being-God) to death, which appeared to his enemy like defeat, his death condemned sin in sinful man. The victory came in his death and was displayed for all to see by his resurrection. This is a powerful real life story that has impacted us for thousands of years. Wow, God really did come to earth and walk among us. It was very different than our favorite stories. The ways of the real God are not our ways:

Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

FREEDOM IN JESUS

In Romans Chapter 6, Paul gives us a detailed explanation of the freedom we have as believers in Christ Jesus. As I read through this chapter, it reminded me of what life was like before I surrendered to Jesus. I was in control, and nothing seemed to be going right. When I surrendered to Jesus, I gave him control. It was very freeing. I realized that, though I thought I was in control, I had been under the control of my sinful nature.

The challenge of living in this freedom is founded in who’s in control. When I am truly surrendered to Jesus, I’m free to humbly respond to daily life with love and forgiveness. When I take back control, I’m living in my sinful nature. The lie is that when I’m in control, I can make things right; but no, sin takes over. The mess I create leaves me in pain, stressed out, and filled with regret.

Jesus has set me free from sins control. Only in Jesus can I live freely.