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Reconciliation: God, The Divine Restorer
If you have your Bibles, we want you to open them up and turn in them to Colossians, chapter 1. If you don’t have a Bible, there should be one under a chair in front of you. You can grab that Bible and turn in it in the back portion to page 157, and you would find yourself at Colossians, chapter 1.
When I was growing up, we moved frequently. One of the advantages to moving frequently is that you have time markers in your life that you will have certain memories. Those memories are often connected with the place where you lived. Because you knew you lived at a certain place at a certain age, it’s very much easier to calculate your age related to those memories.
When I was the age of 11 through the age 17, my family lived in Overland Park, Kansas, which is one of the suburbs of Kansas City. When we moved there, we had something in our home we’d never had before, and that was a crystal chandelier that hung in our dining room. It had on that chandelier these individual prisms. They had little hooks on them that attached them to the chandelier.
When I was maybe age 11 or maybe 12 (somewhere in there), I would take those prisms. Now they were smaller than the one I have in my hand. But I would take them down. I would take one down, and I can remember walking over to the window where the sunlight was coming in. I held that little prism from the chandelier in the light, and I watched it refract into various colors, the various elements of light. That is when I first learned that light is actually made up of multiple elements.
As we have been stating, there is a lot of parallel between light and also salvation. Christ’s death earned so great a salvation. It was so vast that it cannot be conveyed by one concept. When we look at salvation through the lens of Scripture, we’ll see it refracts into various elements. We have listed some of those being redemption and propitiation and reconciliation and justification and imputation. As you look at those various elements, your appreciation for the scope of salvation goes up, and our appreciation for the greatness of our God deepens.
So we’ve been involved in a little series where we’ve been looking at Our Great Salvation. First, we looked at redemption, where we see God, the Great Emancipator. Then last time we looked at propitiation where we see God, the Divine Provider. We see He provided the full legal satisfaction to meet God’s wrath as required by His holiness and righteousness.
Now today we come to another element, another facet, and that element is reconciliation. Reconciliation where we see God, the Divine Restorer. If you have your Bibles open to Colossians 1, I want to read a few verses from this chapter, beginning with verse 19, and we’ll read down through verse 22. I would invite you just to follow along as I read.
Paul writes in verse 19, “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him (that is, in Jesus), and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His Cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.”
Reconciliation where we see God, the Divine Restorer. Now our plan for today as we look at reconciliation, it involves four different things. Number one, we’re going to see reconciliation is a familiar idea to us. We know this idea from our culture. Second, we’re going to look at the biblical background of reconciliation. Then we’re going to look at the core meaning of reconciliation. Then lastly we’re going to take a closer look at the key passages in the New Testament that talk about reconciliation.
So we’re going to look at the fact that it’s a familiar idea. It’s not a new idea to us. We’re going to look at the biblical background of reconciliation, the core meaning of it, and then we’ll be looking more carefully at some key passages. So as we try to understand reconciliation, we need to remember that it’s actually a very familiar idea to us. It’s a common term in our culture. You might see the term reconcile used in the realm of finances.
Now I know what I’m going to share with you only happens in the Hess household. It certainly would happen in nobody else’s household. But this does happen occasionally in the Hess’s household. Maybe you’ve heard about some people far away who had this problem. But, you know, you have this situation where there is a lack of harmony between the checkbook and the bank statement. I realize none of you have ever had that problem, but we have had that problem. When there is a disharmony between the checkbook and the bank statement, there are financial repercussions, which we’ve experienced some. Like, for example, a bounced check or penalty fees, which they’re making higher and higher it seems every year.
So when you have this lack of harmony, what you need to do is you need to reconcile the checkbook and the bank statement. See, this is a familiar idea to us. We see it not only in the realm of finances, but you might use the word reconcile in the realm of relationships. Maybe you have some friends. Maybe it’s a boyfriend or a girlfriend. It could be spouses. There is a problem. There is a lack of harmony; there is alienation. While there is a lack of harmony and alienation, there are some personal ramifications that come. There can be frustration. There can be loneliness. There can be guilt. So what the two people need to do is they need to reconcile.
Isn’t that an interesting word? You know, when I think of the word reconcile, to me it has a very calm, upbeat sound to it. I have to tell you, it was music to my ears [highly pleasing] when I hear the statement, “The checkbook is reconciled.” Ah! It sounds good. We’ve all heard a story of people who were alienated from one another. It’s so good to hear they chose to reconcile, and they are restored in their relationship.
So this is a familiar idea. When we talk about God’s reconciliation, it’s familiar to us, which leads us then to a second question. That is…How is the idea conveyed in Scripture? So the second thing we want to look at today is the biblical background of reconciliation. In order to do that, we don’t need to turn there, but I want you just in your minds to go back to the book of Genesis with me, which literally means the book of beginnings.
As the Bible opens up, you will remember it opens up, and everything is in perfect harmony…perfect harmony between God and His creation. Certainly between Him and Adam and Eve. But what happens? You remember what happens? Sin enters in to the situation. There are personal ramifications to that. Because of sin coming on the scene, there is estrangement, and there is alienation. In fact, there is death. There is virtually separation that occurs because of that.
It’s really interesting when you come to chapter 3, verse 8. After all that has happened (this estrangement and alienation), it says, “The Lord God was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.” What do Adam and Eve do? You remember? They run, and they hide. Why? Because there is alienation; there is estrangement. There is separation because of sin. Eventually, as you track it through the Bible, we know this alienation, this estrangement because of sin, spreads.
In fact, it spreads to everyone. It spreads to you, and it spreads to me. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All of us have gone astray, each one of us has turned to his own way.” So we also find ourselves in the midst of alienation and estrangement from God. That leads to disharmony. That leads to separation, and that leads to guilt.
One of the classic ways to emphasize this estrangement and alienation and separation between us and God is a little evangelistic tool called the bridge illustration. In the bridge illustration, what you have is on one side, you have humanity. On the other side, you have God. There is this gap that exists between them. It’s actually, in reality, a great gulf. At Family Life when we use a similar thing, we use a picture of the Grand Canyon. It is a great gulf that exists. What does that communicate? The estrangement between humanity and God is severe! It is very severe.
There are so many interesting things in the book of beginnings. One of the things to me it’s very interesting…I find it intriguing…is there is an awesome picture there. Because you have this estrangement, this alienation, that takes places between Adam and Eve and God. Adam and Eve attempt to cover the guilt and the rebellion. So we learn from chapter 3, verse 7, they go out, and they get some fig leaves. They try to cover themselves, which is really a picture of human effort to deal with the alienation and the estrangement.
Later on in the chapter 3, verse 21, God steps up and, if you remember this, He kills some animals. He sacrifices some animals. Then He takes those animal skins and says to them, “You need to cover yourselves with these animal skins.” It’s actually the very first key glimpse we have of the Cross, because the lesson is that through the shedding of blood, that’s how we have to deal with the estrangement and the alienation. The estrangement we have before God is very severe.
I want you to turn with me to Romans, chapter 5. You know, you have the four Gospels. Then you have the book of Acts; then you have the book of Romans. In Romans 5… The passage we read from, Colossians 1, is one of the key passages which we’ll refer back to on reconciliation. But Romans 5 is another one. But I want us to look at, though, in Romans 5, how this estrangement between us and God is very severe.
Notice verse 6 of Romans 5. He says, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” Now there are some very important terms in there. The first one is the term helpless. You see, our efforts to reconcile between us and God…there was nothing we could do! Our efforts to reconcile with Him were no better than the fig leaves Adam and Eve tried to come up with.
Another key word in verse 6 is the word ungodly, because you see, that’s a description of us. We dialed [tuned] God out of our lives. “I don’t need You. I can do this on my own. I’m just dialing You out.” The estrangement is very severe. Look at verse 8. It says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” You see, we weren’t passive about sin. We were sinners. We weren’t passive. We were overtly active. We were violating God’s standards. We failed to conform to His standards.
This last Christmas, my mom gave my wife and me a gift we hadn’t asked for, but we’ve really enjoyed having. It was a liquid crystal radio-controlled clock. What happens is that clock receives radio signals that come out from the world’s most accurate clock. Then this little clock we have adjusts to that standard. We learn from Ephesians, chapter 2, verse 1, it says there that we were dead in our trespasses and sins. You know what that means? It means we couldn’t conform to God’s standards. We not only violated them, we couldn’t conform to them. We couldn’t conform to God’s standards anymore than a clock with a dead battery could conform to an atomic clock. The estrangement was severe.
Look at Romans, chapter 5, verse 10. It says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” You want to talk about a severe alienation? We were His enemies. But why? Because we’re involved in overt rebellion. “I’m doing this my way, God! I will live life my way. I’m doing it my way, not Your way.” So the estrangement is very, very severe.
But I want you to notice something there in verse 10. It says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” God takes the initiative. There is alienation; there is separation. But He takes the initiative, which leads us, by the way, to the core meaning of reconciliation. It revolves around a word called katallassō. Katallassō is a word that comes from a term that means to alter, to adjust, or to change. It’s very basic. The word katallassō means to effect a change.
It was used outside of the Bible of restoring a relationship to the original relationship after there had been hostility in that relationship. Katallassō implies disruption and division. The idea of katallassō is that there is this removal of hostility. This restoration of harmony that God and people like us are reconciled.
Now having gotten that idea of the core meaning, let’s talk a little bit more about these key passages in the New Testament. As we said, one of them is Romans, chapter 5. We learn something important, I think, from verse 8. Verse 8 tells us the proof of God’s love… You want to know what the proof of God’s love was? The proof of God’s love came at Calvary. That’s where it came. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
Reconciliation was accomplished through the Cross. In verse 10, it says, “…We were reconciled to God…” How? “Through the death of His Son.” Now listen…this is very important. No Cross, no reconciliation. So many people miss that. No Cross, no reconciliation. But again, who initiates it? We have this alienation, this separation between us and God. Who initiates it? Who steps to the plate? We were helpless. We couldn’t do anything about it. Aren’t those first couple of words of verse 8 just some of the most beautiful you have ever heard? “But God…” God initiates.
Turn back to the passage we read from at the beginning in Colossians, chapter 1. We see this all the more clearly that God takes the initiation. Colossians 1, verse 20, says the idea was that through Jesus, God would reconcile all things to Himself. How? “Having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Notice verse 21. “And although you were formerly alienated (these are descriptions of you and me) and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you.” How? “In His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach.” No Cross, no reconciliation. But God initiated it.
Probably the classic illustration of reconciliation in all of the Bible comes from the Old Testament. It comes from a book in the Old Testament. It’s one people don’t visit very often. It’s called the book of Hosea. In the Old Testament, you have Ezekiel. Then you have Daniel, and then next comes Hosea. In that book, God instructs Hosea to marry Gomer. Now I don’t know about you, but in my cultural perspective of the world, Gomer is not a female name to me. In fact, I’ve only ever heard the name once.
If you’re a little older, you might remember there was a character on television called Gomer Pyle. He was an inept TV character who really had a heart of gold. So that’s the only Gomer I’ve ever heard of. So I have to admit to you, when I read Hosea, I sort of chuckle a little bit. He had to marry Gomer. I’m thinking, Who is Gomer? But in his day, you know, Gomer was a common female name.
So God instructs Hosea to marry Gomer, and he does. But if you follow the story along, you know what happens is Gomer becomes unfaithful to Hosea. Not just unfaithful, but Gomer leaves their relationship and runs off and becomes involved in prostitution. Now as a husband, there are a lot of things your wife might do, but I can’t think of anything that would be more distasteful than to know that not only was your wife unfaithful and she left, but she went and became immersed in prostitution. Though she turned away from him, Hosea still loved her.
Then there came a day in which he found his wife naked in the public square. No doubt he was standing in the shadows, and he sees her naked in the public square being sold at the slave auction. You can all imagine… I could picture myself wanting to stand in the shadows and go, “You know what? That’s what happens when you leave your husband, and you run off, and you get involved in prostitution.” But you know, that’s not what Hosea does. He steps out of the shadows, and he joins in the bidding. He buys his wife, Gomer. He clothes her, and he brings her back home. Guess what happens? His faithful love to her overwhelms her. Her response is to love him back and have great gratitude for what he did for her.
Well if you know the book of Hosea, you know that relationship between Hosea and Gomer is really a picture of what Israel had done to God. I believe it’s also a picture of what humanity has done to God, and what we have done to God. But here is the idea. Though we have run off, and though we were living in rebellion and darkness, God takes the initiative because He says, “I’ve always loved you.” He pays the price to bring us back. The most amazing thing is He bought us just as we were. Just as Hosea bought Gomer just as she was, He bought us just as we were.
He didn’t say, “Wait a minute. Now hold on. Time out. What you need to do is get righteous first. If you get righteous…you work on yourself for a while…I’ll consider reestablishing a relationship with you. I’ll consider reconciliation.” No, He bought us just as we were. You see, we were alienated, and He initiated. His plan was to reconcile us…beautiful word…to remove the hostility and to restore harmony. See what reconciliation means is this. He is not mad at us. He is not holding our sin against us. He desires we come home, and we enjoy His faithful love for us.
I want you to turn with me to 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, which is the other key passage on reconciliation. I want to read a few verses from it, beginning with verse 18. I want you to know that 2 Corinthians 5 is the power passage on reconciliation. In fact, we could probably spend several weeks in these verses. But I want to pull some things out of this power passage on reconciliation.
Second Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 18. “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
Now there is a lot here. We learn from verse 18 that God reconciled us to Himself. You see that? We learn in verse 19 that He is not counting our trespasses against us. You know, we don’t shout out a lot of Amens and Hallelujahs at Wildwood. It’s just not our style. If we were at a black church, it would probably happen a lot. But I mean, is there not anything you want to say Hallelujah to any greater than this? He is not counting our trespasses against us! I mean, hallelujah! What an incredible truth that is. How did He pull that off? How did He do that?
Well, verse 21 that we didn’t read really tells us. It says that God “made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf.” That’s what we looked at last week that God’s justice was propitiated. It was satisfied in Jesus Christ. You remember the gap between humanity and God in the bridge illustration? What happens? A bridge is built over the chasm by the cross. Incredible! That’s how He did it to not count our trespasses against us.
One other little thing I want to draw out of this section is something that happens in verse 19 that confuses people at times. Notice it says in verse 19, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” In other words, through His death (through the death of Christ), the world was brought into a position whereby it could be rescued. You remember what it says? John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His unique Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” God opened the doors, you see, for the world to return.
So then the question is…Why isn’t all the world saved? Why aren’t all people saved? Some people might look at this, and they say, “Well, you know what happens is… You know, when He reconciled the world, it’s not really a legitimate offer of full reconciliation.” But think about this. You take two people, and their relationship is broken. One decides, “I’m going to try to make this right. I want to reconcile. I want it to be restored.” But if the other person refuses, it doesn’t make the offer of the first person not legitimate. It’s very legitimate.
So why aren’t all people saved if He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them? Well, what does it say in John 3:16 again? He loved the world. He gave His Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. There is an individual appeal even in light of the work of Christ. Look at verse 20 of 2 Corinthians 5. He says there, “We beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
Well He reconciled the world to Himself, but now the idea is there needs to be a response to that. He is saying, “We beg you, be reconciled.” An individual response is needed, and it’s a response where by faith, we make a life choice to trust in what it says in verse 21 that God made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we trust in His blood and His death for us. We believe God did all that was necessary to accomplish reconciliation. But it only really becomes ours when we embrace it by faith. This is amazing stuff! This is amazing stuff!
There is something else that amazes me in this section. It comes in verse 20. It says, “We are ambassadors for Christ.” Now if I said to you, “What is an ambassador?” you’d go, “Well, I understand. An ambassador, you know… Here we have those in America. What an ambassador is, is a representative of our country. That’s what an ambassador is.” Actually, no. Technically no, that’s not true. What an ambassador is is a representative of the President of the United States.
You see, that’s why he appoints them. The idea is this. The President is not present everywhere. He is not physically present over in this country or that country. So he appoints an ambassador to be his representative there. See, that’s the idea. Jesus is not visibly present. So it’s our assignment to be His ambassador, to be His representative, the one who would represent Him in our world where we live. We are to be the one who would announce the good news.
Did you see what it said in verse 19? I don’t know that I’ll ever get over what it says at the end of the verse when it says, “He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” Key word there is the word us. Who is included in the us? Is it the preacher? You know, the Bible teacher? Look to your left; look to your right; look behind and in front of you. That’s who the us is. Has that not just blown you away? Have you thought about that recently? Have you looked in the mirror? Have you looked in the mirror and seen who the us is and even wonder, Why in the world would God do that? That’s the most unbelievable thing I ever heard!
In fact, it’s indescribable that He would tap me on the shoulder, and He would tap you on the shoulder and say, “Yeah, I have committed to you the word of reconciliation. The message about what I’ve done, you’re the one who communicates it.” Our great salvation we see in reconciliation God, the Divine Restorer. That’s an incredible story. It’s worthy of our time.
Now as we close today, I want to talk about some life response. Having looked at what we’ve looked at (these four elements of reconciliation), I want to talk about life response. Here is the first life response I think we need to have, and that is…
1. Be reconciled. There are some of us who have that as a need in our lives personally. You see, here is what’s happened, God the Divine Restorer has opened up the door. He has opened up the door, and He is saying, “I want you to come home.” He is saying, “I have always loved you from the day I created you. I want you to come home. I want you to enjoy My faithful love for you.” But you have to make a life decision to trust in His great work on your behalf. See, if you’ve never come to know Jesus Christ personally, His message to you today is, “Be reconciled.”
Here is what He is really saying to you: “I have no debt to collect from you. Jesus paid the price. I have taken the initiative. I’ve done all the work. I’m just waiting for your response.” Do you know that Jesus is the pivot point of the universe? We need to let people know that. He is the pivot point of the whole universe. You see, either a man or a woman or a young person is going to receive reconciliation through Christ, or they’re going to receive judgment and separation from Him forever. He is the pivot point, and His appeal is to be reconciled. Why would you hesitate? Why would you ever hesitate in the face of such great love? Because I don’t know everybody’s heart, I would just echo the words of Paul. “We beg you…be reconciled. Be reconciled.”
So that’s the first life response. The second life response is this…
2. Share the story. Share the good news. We have good news for people! So we need to tell it to our friends. Some of you go, “I don’t know exactly what to say.” Listen…I’ve actually set you up. You have this whole message. This message is here. You can get this from our website. You can buy CDs. You can copy it. You can download it. You can utilize it. You can link the message to our website in an e-mail. You can send this through Facebook to all of your friends. You can Twitter this. You can blow out your whole e-mail list and show the link back to this. We need to share the message. Do not hold back because you think, I don’t know exactly what to say. We need to share the story.
Tony Evans tells of a story of the poet Elizabeth Barrett. She wanted to get married to another poet, Robert Browning. Her father violently objected to her doing that. They did get married, and that caused some alienation and some separation. For 10 years, Elizabeth wrote to her parents asking them to reconcile with her. For a decade, she never got a response. Then one day, a box came in the mail. She opened the box, and in the box she found every letter she had ever written to her father. None of them had ever been opened. So her father never knew the depth of her love and her desire to be reconciled with him.
Well, men and women, God has written the world a letter. In that letter, He tells of His love for them and His desire for them to be reconciled to Him. It’s really our responsibility to open the letter, which is the Word of God, which is the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, and to help people understand how far God has gone to bring them back to Himself. If the message of His letter never gets out enough…through to those who need it most, there will be no reconciliation. So it’s a motivation for you and for me to pick up our calling as His ambassadors and to share the story. We have a great one to tell.
Let’s pray together. Father, we thank You again for the Word of God. What an incredible Book this is! What a privilege to own one. What a greater privilege to study it. What an even greater thing to allow it to change our lives. I would pray, Father, that there is no one who hears my voice who learns of what God has done to reconcile them who would choose not to be reconciled by faith, by trusting in Christ this very day. To say, “Today is the day I want to choose to be reconciled fully with Jesus Christ.” If there has never been a time you’ve done that, how about today being the day?
Father, for those of us who know You, thank You for the privilege of having our soul stirred again in incredible ways when we think about what an amazing God we have who did all of that for us. We thank You in Jesus’ name, Amen.