RECONCILIATION AND SALVATION

Tom asked a question on another post, and I gave a lengthy answer which I want to repeat as a stand-alone post, because I think it is important.

Here’s what I said:

Sorry to take so long to respond. I wanted to make sure I got it right, and I am just taking some extra time to look up the verses that keep going through my mind.

First, I should be clear – being prepared for the day and the hour means being a true Christian. Salvation does not depend on anything other than faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement for my sin by His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

That said, James called it when he said, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:17-18 ESV)

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) and “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

He also said, “So, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24, emphasis mine)

So, that last verse is a command, and it involves loving God (worship) and loving your neighbor. According to Jesus’ words, if you truly love Him (and by extension God), you will reconcile with others so that your worship of God will not be hindered.

John said, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20, emphasis mine).

Scripture is clear. If we profess to be Christians, and thus profess that we love God, we must live that out by doing everything humanly possible to be reconciled with others (specifically, per the use of the term “brother”, other Christians – though we are also commanded to love our enemies as well).

So, husbands, so, wives, so, brothers and sisters in Christ – fervently, doggedly pursue reconciliation as proof of your profession of faith.

As Paul says in Romans, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (That is where I don’t want anyone to make an excuse, and say, “I tried to reconcile, but he/she wouldn’t…” unless you have really, truly, before God and man, made every possible attempt to reconcile).

Blessings,

George

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BROKENNESS AND OBEDIENCE

Have you ever prayed, “God, please change me! Make me the man you want me to be!”?

I have. Plenty of times.

On one hand, God does change us – that’s progressive sanctification. Through trials, and renewing our minds by the power of the Holy Spirit, by knowledge and reproof and correction from His word.

On the other hand, the prayer is usually meant as, “God, please flip the switch in me that will suddenly take away all my temptation to sin. Please make me behave like a Christian!”

That version doesn’t really fit scripture.

Have you ever really read the Great Commission?

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 ESV) (emphasis mine)

Jesus states that He has given the apostles commands which are to be obeyed. He doesn’t say that people will be suddenly changed, and have no responsibility for how they live after becoming disciples.

Earlier, Jesus said:

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36 ESV)

and

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments…Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…Jesus answered him, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.’” (John 14:15,21,23-24 ESV)

and

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 ESV)

God makes it abundantly clear throughout scripture, Old and New Testament, that He commands, and expects us to obey out of our love for Him.

THAT IS WHAT BROKENNESS IS ALL ABOUT!

Brokenness is not God forcing me into the image of Christ, so that in spite of my desire to sin He causes me to do what is right anyhow. Asking God, “Lord, please make me a broken man!” is like praying, “God, please force me to love you!” God wants loving, obedient servants, not blindly obedient robots. He wants the willing, voluntary slave, not forced labor.

Many times, when in the midst of temptation, I would pray, “God, please help me!” (meaning, “God, please intervene and do something to prevent me from committing this sin!”)

God’s response over the years has been, “I already have helped you. Jesus died to set you free from bondage to sin. Go read Romans 6 again!”

I am without excuse! God is the sovereign Creator of the Universe – He gets to set the rules! It is my part to love and obey.

The most beautiful bit, should I choose to accept it, is that God doesn’t just put it all on me to bear alone. As he says in Romans:

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7 ESV)

and in John:

“’And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.’” (John 14:16-17,26 ESV)

He commands, He expects love and obedience, but He also gives us encouragement, reminders, and the power of the Holy Spirit living in us to conquer the nature of sin that still plagues us! (See Romans 8 and Galatians 5, for a start…)

So, when you are beset with temptation, and sin rears its ugly head, and you feel utterly hopeless and stuck in bondage, don’t shake your fist at God and ask Him, “WHY?!?” Instead, stare at yourself in the mirror, take a deep gut check, and admit that you are making a decision – whether you will a) draw on the power of the Holy Spirit and the finished work of Christ on the cross, and take the path of brokenness in loving obedience…or b) shake off God’s hand and take the path of disobedience, sin, and destruction. Every day. Every hour. Every temptation.

You have to decide.

The Love of God and the Peace of Christ be with you always!

George