The FISHERS Magazine (Issue 226)
Reconcilation with God
We are all sinful and our sins offend God. In our offence against God, we need to understand that our relationship with Him is not one between two equals. God is the Creator of the universe and He has absolute authority and power to decide on matters of our life and our destiny.
Reconciliation must first take place before we can be restored to fellowship with God because our sins have offended the holy God. This issue is one of the key foundations of the Gospel and any message that does not deal with the issue of reconciliation has misrepresented the true intent of the Gospel. Every Gospel message must first deal with the issue of the sin in men and how we have offended God, and hence the need for reconciliation with God.
When we are reconciled to God, our relationship with Him changes because He is no longer just our God and Creator but He has become our Heavenly Father. He is not some impersonal God, but One who tenderly cares for us and protects us. Therefore, we have the desire to obey, love and serve Him. We obey Him because we want to and not because we have to. That is also the reason Paul wrote, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor 5:17). The Christian is a new creation with a new relationship with God.
Reconciliation also changes the manner God deals with us. We know that God cannot change and He does not need to change as He is perfect but the way that He deals with us changes. He sees the Christian not as someone filled with sins and disgusting to Him but because we are found in Christ, He sees Christ’s righteousness in us. John 17:23 explains that after we are reconciled to God, He will always love us in the manner that He has loved His Son Jesus Christ.
The Will of God in Reconciliation
There are many passages in the Bible that supports such a truth and the following are two examples. “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8). “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” (Rom 8:32).
Both of these verses remind us so clearly that God was the one who initiated the reconciliation to bring sinners back into fellowship with Him. Paul draws attention to the Father’s love in giving His Son. He is more ready to forgive than we are to ask Him for forgiveness.
Jesus Christ was the means of that salvation and God the Father was the one who initiated and set in motion the way of reconciliation and thus salvation for sinners. Reconciliation is a deed that only God can accomplish. Many in the world think of all the charitable deeds and sacrifices that they can do in order to please God and be saved into heaven. There is nothing that men can do or need to do. The Gospel message reminds us that God had already done the reconciliation for sinners to Himself through the death of Christ on the Cross.
The Way of Reconciliation
Before reconciliation can ever take place, men must face up to their sins. There is no one who can claim to be without sin. God’s standard of righteousness is perfect and hence even sins of the heart are visible to Him. Sin does not consist only of breaking God’s laws by action but also by thought. The Bible also teaches that we were born in sin because the first man, Adam sinned. Therefore, from the moment we were conceived, we are already sinful and therefore all men without exception have sinned against God.
What does it mean when Paul wrote, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21a)? Some misinterpret this to mean that when Jesus hung upon the Cross at Calvary, He had become sinful in nature because He was taking upon Himself all of our sins. Jesus, even as He hung upon the Cross was never tainted with sins but He was simply our sin bearer.
If it was possible to sew all the sins ever committed by the elect of God on a robe, when Jesus bore our sins at Calvary, it was like Him wearing the robe of sins. When God the Father looked at His Beloved Son hanging on the Cross, He saw all the sins being nailed to the Cross and the price being paid when Jesus died on the Cross. Our sins were imputed to Jesus Christ and He was treated as the sinner.
What is Paul saying when he wrote that God made Jesus to be sin? Even at the Cross, Jesus had no sin in Himself but God treated Jesus Christ as if He personally committed all the sins that we had committed or would ever commit. In the same manner, God treats us as if we had lived Christ’s life, perfect and righteous. We are all reckoned as righteous. Our sins were imputed to Him and His righteousness was imputed to us. That is why Jesus’ death at Calvary is called the substitutionary death. Christ never knew sin but was made sin; while we who can never ever earn righteousness are accounted as righteous with the righteousness of God.
Consequences of Reconciliation
Paul confessed that there was a time when he regarded Jesus Christ according to the flesh. This means that he thought of Jesus from a human perspective and limited Jesus to human attributes only. That was before he met the risen Lord on the road to Damascus and was wonderfully converted.
Before his conversion, Paul persecuted Jesus and His followers. He considered it blasphemous that Jesus claimed that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. After his conversion, his perspective of Jesus changed and he saw in Christ the fulfillment of all the prophecies regarding the Messiah and salvation. From being a persecutor of the church, Paul became an ambassador of the message of reconciliation with God.
Paul’s view of his fellow believers also changed dramatically because he now understood that they were all new creations. The old had passed away after they had been washed, sanctified and justified in Christ. Such testimony from Paul also encourages us that there is no one who can claim to be so sinful that God cannot save and change him.
It is important to note that Paul uses the words ‘new creation’ to describe the changes in the lives of believers. Once conversion takes place, there is a permanent change of heart in the person immediately. The things that used to entice and enslave us are broken. Old habits and sinful behaviour can be conquered and our priorities, desires and focus change. We will still fall into sin but when we sin, our hearts grieve because there is a struggle within us. Anyone who claims to be a Christian but continues to live happily in sin must examine his own heart as to whether he has truly become a new creation.
When the new creation takes place, that person will then have the desire to please God and to live in obedience to His Word. Although we will continue to have the propensity to sin, we also know that the grace of God will change terrible sinners such as us into people with a desire to live for Him and please Him.
Think back on the day after you were converted. The Word of God came alive to you and sin no longer had the same hold it had on you. You developed a new desire to please God not because you were compelled to do so but you just have the inner desire to please Him. When we begin to understand the changes that took place at our own conversion, we will begin to look at fellow believers differently.
After we become Christians, our old habits and offensive ways do not disappear immediately and for some Christians, they never disappear. Even so, we are to treat these Christians in the same manner that God treats us. We will never become perfect and holy until the day we see Christ face to face. Yet each time God looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Christ in us and He forgives our sin. He loves us as if we had lived the perfect righteous life of Jesus Christ. If God is able to treat us in such a gracious and loving manner, should we not have the same attitude towards our fellow believers? Should we not love even those who are not lovely, who hurt us and irritate us within the church? We can only do so if we learn not to regard other believers in the flesh but to see them as new creations in Christ.
Furthermore, having become recipients of God’s reconciliation, we are sent forth as His ambassadors to bring the message of reconciliation to others. It is good news that we cannot selfishly keep to ourselves but must proclaim to all who need to hear this message. With visions consistent with our new creation, we view the unsaved world as our mission field and not as our enemies.
If you have not been reconciled to God, you are still outside the kingdom of God. It is not your church attendance or your external behaviour that determines your salvation but whether you bear the fruit of new creation in your own life. If you have no desire to read God’s Word, if you have no desire to live in obedience to God’s Word, if your priorities in life are all about your own needs, do a reality check and do not live in denial. It could be that you are not saved.
The worst thing that one can do is to leave this world without having been reconciled to God. Then you would have to face His judgment and wrath on the day you stand before Him and the consequences are eternal. What you are exhorted to do is to realise that you have offended God and are alienated from Him. Jesus has already paid the price in full for your offenses and anyone who receives Jesus Christ as Saviour will be reconciled to God and made a new creation. If you are such a person, I pray that you will heed this invitation from a loving God to be reconciled to Him.
Tan Chee Eng