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Wednesday, March 23, 2011


     My wife has a saying that she says anytime she sees someone naked running through the house. She says they are "in all their glory."  Now I must clarify that naked people running through our house doesn't happen often and now that the kids are older it hasn't happened recently.  Of course the typical situation where this would occur would be a child escaping a diaper changing or an unwanted bath.  You know, NORMAL situations that occur in a NORMAL family.  It's all very NORMAL. Just sayin'.

     But the point I wanted to make is not about streakers but more about this idea of a person being "in all their glory" when they are unclothed.  As I thought about the oddity of that statement, it struck me that it might be closer to the truth than we would care to think.

     It is interesting to me that Mankind was created by God "in our image" and that it wasn't until after the Fall Mankind was clothed in any way.  There is much in the Bible about the Glory of God and it seems to be a much more tangible thing than how we typically view glory in our world.  What if we also had Glory when we were created and that Glory was so diminished by our sin that  it had to be hid, and we have been hiding it ever since?  We dress ourselves up, we style our hair, we "make up" our faces, and we spend billions modifying our bodies and those of us who are good enough at it often become "glorified" at some level.

Imagine; being glorified for covering up our Glory.

     To wrap it all up, I also found it interesting that in Scripture when it talks about our re-uniting with our bodies, they are referred to as our glorified bodies.  It seems we are being restored to our previous state that is in a much closer relationship with God than we are capable of now.  And maybe at even a more basic level that has been lost for so long, we have forgotten it ever existed.  I find it intriguing that we might be considering as shameful, our very God-given Glory.

     Now, I am not bringing this up to advocate some crazy idea that nudity should be celebrated not covered as our society seems more and more comfortable in doing. Not at all.  I am throwing out these speculations (and speculations are what they are, I have done 0 research, I am writing as I am thinking about it) because what has come to my mind while considering this idea is that this might just be a physical presentation of what has happened to us spiritually through the Fall.  Just think about the last time you paused for a moment in front of the mirror stepping out of the shower. And think of the thoughts that went through your mind. What if what you were looking at was your Glory? How humiliating would that be, that the thing that should bring you the most praise of anything you have done or possess is that thing that was staring back at you from that mirror?  I don't know, maybe you have the perfect body by society's standards and maybe you are just vain enough to think you are just that amazing, but I would imagine that the other 99.9% of us would find this idea appalling.

     What a devastatingly sad state we are in and how desperately do we need God's Glory to shine through our lives while we remain in this diminished state.  To think that this image in the mirror is the best we have to offer is truly humbling.  But equally humbling is the thought that the most beautiful example of a human being is so diminished from its intended Glory that is should be covered in shame.  Wow. That makes the thought of what awaits us in Heaven quite inconceivable. And then to think that even as unbelievable that will be, it will be so overwhelmed by God's Glory that we may not even notice it.

     Who are we to consider equality with God something to be grasped at any level? So maybe the next time you find yourself entertaining the idea that you might know better than God or that you can accomplish something without Him, you should take a peak at yourself "in all your glory".  That should snap you back to reality rather quickly I would think.  

How about you?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Truth of Being an Agent of Reconciliation

I must start this post with an admission of guilt. I have been kicking myself in the face all day (figuratively of course, I am far too portly to literally kick myself in the face) because as I have dealt with this idea of the “Gospel of Reconciliation” I have consistently argued against it using my knowledge of Scripture and reason which was easy enough to do, any fifth grader who had read the Bible could have done it, but never once did I actually go to the Bible to read what is actually says about reconciliation! And that is shameful! How can I accuse others of not reading the passages about it when I haven’t done it either?  But now that I have taken the plank out of my own eye and have committed myself to not inserting it again, I can write this post about the truth of what the Bible really says about reconciliation.  So here we go.
I just finished listening to a recent chapel service from the MidAmerica Nazarene University, the college I attended, as well as my wife, my brother, my wife’s sister, and now my son and other’s from my church and district.  They had guests speaking about being “missional” and that all of us are called to be “agents of reconciliation”. Now, one point that was made was that as Christians we can no longer sit back and expect the missionaries to be the one’s taking part in God’s mission in the world while we remain cozy in our world of tasteless salt and dim light.  (my words not his)  And in this I am in full agreement with him. However, it seemed as though no one on that stage had even the slightest clue what God’s mission actually is and what being an “agent of reconciliation” means.  How 7 or 8 Christians could sit on a stage for over a half an hour and talk about how they are doing God’s mission and living out being His agents of reconciliation without once mentioning the Gospel amazes me. So the following is a look at the primary passages where this concept of reconciliation is revealed in Scripture.

Romans 5:1-11

1 Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God's glory. 3Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance, character, and character, hope. 5And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7(For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) 8But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, because we have now been declared righteous by his blood, we will be saved through him from God's wrath. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, since we have been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? 11Not only this, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received this reconciliation.

   “This entire passage is about the Hope that we have in Christ and that is our inclusion in God’s glory at our resurrection. The point of the cross is laid out clearly. That is to be made righteous and to be spared His wrath. The words “reconciled” and “reconciliation” here refer to our Salvation from His wrath and the forgiveness of our sins.  Notice that it is only AFTER our reconciliation that we are “saved by His life”.  This phrase means that our hope of the resurrection and God’s glory are secured by the reality of Jesus’ life after His resurrection.  This is a great promise for us.  In this passage, reconciliation is synonymous with salvation.”

Romans 11:11-15:
11I ask then, they did not stumble into an irrevocable fall, did they? Absolutely not! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make Israel jealous. 12Now if their transgression means riches for the world and their defeat means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full restoration bring?
13Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Seeing that I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14if somehow I could provoke my people to jealousy and save some of them. 15For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

   “Here again we see that the word “reconciliation” is synonymous with the word “salvation”. Additionally, the word “world” is referring to the people called the Gentiles, or all peoples who are not Jewish.  So Paul’s point is that by the Jews rejecting Christ as Messiah, the opportunity for salvation was afforded to the rest of the people of the world. And salvation can safely be defined by Paul’s earlier definition in Romans 5 as being saved from God’s wrath, having sins forgiven and having a hope for a resurrection into God’s glory.”

II Corinthians 5:1-21:
1For we know that if our earthly house, the tent we live in, is dismantled, we have a building from God, a house not built by human hands, that is eternal in the heavens. 2For in this earthly house we groan, because we desire to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3if indeed, after we have put on our heavenly house, we will not be found naked. 4For we groan while we are in this tent, since we are weighed down, because we do not want to be unclothed, but clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now the one who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave us the Spirit as a down payment. 6Therefore we are always full of courage, and we know that as long as we are alive here on earth we are absent from the Lord - 7for we live by faith, not by sight. 8Thus we are full of courage and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So then whether we are alive or away, we make it our ambition to please him. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.
11Therefore, because we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade people, but we are well known to God, and I hope we are well known to your consciences too. 12We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to be proud of us, so that you may be able to answer those who take pride in outward appearance and not in what is in the heart. 13For if we are out of our minds, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 14For the love of Christ controls us, since we have concluded this, that Christ died for all; therefore all have died. 15And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised. 16So then from now on we acknowledge no one from an outward human point of view. Even though we have known Christ from such a human point of view, now we do not know him in that way any longer. 17So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away - look, what is new has come! 18And all these things are from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and who has given us the ministry of reconciliation. 19In other words, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting people's trespasses against them, and he has given us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His plea through us. We plead with you on Christ's behalf, "Be reconciled to God!" 21God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.

   “Here we have an entire chapter highlighting the very points made in Romans 5 and 11 but this time written to the Corinthians.  The first part of the chapter is stating the fact that we do not belong here on this earth and that all of our longing should be for Heaven. But we are able to have courage in this life and can be content in this life while God’s will is for us to remain here because God has given us the Holy Spirit as a promise that one day we will be with Him in Heaven.  Paul then proceeds to reiterate again what it means to be saved and that it is not just something offered a select few but it is offered to every person in the world.   
   One thing to point put is that Paul is clear that the reconciliation proceeds from God NOT from us.  Reconciliation is not something we do, ever.  It is something God does.  Paul also defines reconciliation again for us with very clear and precise language.  Here he defines it as “not counting people’s trespasses against them”.  To restate that in more modern language, that is the forgiveness of sins. Immediately following that definition, Paul then says that God has given them that very message, the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation.   
   Finally, to make sure his point is well taken, Paul again defines what he means and likewise what Christ means, by reconciliation when he says, “God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.” This entire chapter is about the forgiveness of sins in order that people can someday be with God in Heaven!  And THAT is the message of reconciliation that we are to take to the people of the world

Ephesians 2
1And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you formerly lived according to this world's present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, 3among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest...
4But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, 5even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you are saved! - 6and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9it is not from works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.
11Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh - who are called "uncircumcision" by the so-called "circumcision" that is performed on the body by human hands - 12that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, 15when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, 16and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. 17And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, 18so that through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God's household, 20because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. 21In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

   "Once again, just as in Romans 11, Paul makes the point that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles and that through the cross, both are equally reconciled to God, so much so that they are to become one body and that the Church. The point is clear; the cross of Christ reconciles us to God."

Colossians 1:9-23
9For this reason we also, from the day we heard about you, have not ceased praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, 10so that you may live worthily of the Lord and please him in all respects - bearing fruit in every good deed, growing in the knowledge of God, 11being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might for the display of all patience and steadfastness, joyfully 12giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the saints' inheritance in the light. 13He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation,
 16for all things in heaven and on earth were created by him - all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers - all things were created through him and for him.
 17He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him.
 18He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things.
 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son

 20and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross - through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
21And you were at one time strangers and enemies in your minds as expressed through your evil deeds, 22but now he has reconciled you by his physical body through death to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before him - 23if indeed you remain in the faith, established and firm, without shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has also been preached in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become its servant.

   “And again, we have Paul writing the same points to the Colossians that he had written to the Ephesians and Romans before.  We should not expect that this rendition would be any different than his previous two writings nor that the definitions of the words used would be different.  In this part of the letter Paul does specify that they should bear fruit in good deeds but that in order to please Him, saying nothing about those fruits attributing to their redemption which he clearly states in verse 14 is “the forgiveness of sins.”   
   Further on Paul describes Jesus Christ in great detail culminating in His purpose which is reconciling “all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross - through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.”  The language here is slightly different than what is used in the other letter’s but the idea being expressed is identical; we are reconciled to Christ by His death on the cross.    
   If there is any question, Paul continues by stating the fact that they are reconciled by Jesus’ physical death so that they might be presented “holy, without blemish, and blameless…”.  Paul leaves no question as to what he means when he uses the words “reconcile” or “reconciliation”. He is the only one to use these words in the New Testament and he clearly defines them each time they are used as the forgiveness of sins.
   Its amazing how deceived Christians have become. The “Gospel of Reconciliation” that is being preached from our pulpits and taught on our universities is directly from the mind of Satan and it is time to cut away the sheep skin from the wolves who have invaded our churches and school.”

Romans 8:18-23

18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

   “Finally, I must include this passage from Romans because it is used in combination with the verses about reconciliation to create this impression that Scripture teaches that we, as agents of reconciliation, are to bring about this redemption of creation. I have already explained fully the passages regarding true reconciliation so it seems this passage should be moot but let’s look at it anyway.   
   This passage first begins with stating that the things we go through, the suffering, ‘are not worth comparing with the glory’ to be revealed.  And what is the ‘glory’?  It is our entrance to Heaven.  Paul further describes this glory as the ‘revealing of the sons of God’, ‘adoption as sons’, ‘the redemption of our bodies’.  Additional clues that Paul is strictly talking about Heaven comes when he refers to this glory as ‘this hope’.  And not simply “this hope” but that in this hope we were saved.  This language matches the other passages exactly.  Paul is consistent in his presentation of the Gospel as being the forgiveness of sins which saves us from God’s wrath and gives us the hope of Heaven. He says the same thing here in regards to those who are to be adopted as sons.  Then he makes a connection that we see nowhere else in Scripture.  He tells us that all of creation longs for the day of our final redemption so that it too may be set free from its bondage to decay wrought on it by Adam’s sin.  Yet it is clear that creation’s hope does not lie in us but in our redemption by God.   
   He also makes clear that this will take place at the redemption of our bodies which will take place upon Christ’s return. So in the end anything we do to attempt to redeem or reconcile creation to God is an effort in futility.  It isn’t pure vanity since we are called to be stewards of what God has given us and made us rulers over but if we expect our work for the planet or even for our fellow man to somehow be a part of their redemption, we are being duped.”


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