Monday, October 26, 2009

The Ministry of Reconciliation, Part II

Living a life that is reconciled to truth means that I cease to see myself as the instigator or producer of change. I throw out all idea of trying to convince others, of trying to change their minds toward Christ. For I see that to bring change in anyway is not my job, nor is it even a possibility for me. I cannot change myself, why would I assume to change the minds or hearts of others?

Any form of discipline I inflict upon myself will not change my heart. My routine may become altered, my traditions may be adjusted, but my heart, who I am within, cannot be altered by actions to which I attempt to adhere. No, it is only Christ that can bring about change within me. Only submitting to His truth can relax and free my stiff-necked soul. Likewise, it is only the truth of Christ which can bring about change of mind and heart in others.

Definitely, I must know the truth. Knowing and surrendering to the truth is how I am prepared to always give an answer for the hope that is within me: as I surrender to truth, Christ will communicate the answer through me. The answer that is needed on every occasion can only be provided by Christ. I do not know the hearts of others. I know nothing of their inner suffering, their past hurts and triumphs, but Christ knows their thoughts. He knows what they need, and if I will surrender to be reconciled to the truth of His Father, I will be granted the privilege of His life being fitly spoken through me, both in word and deed.

A life reconciled to truth is a life transformed, a life that everywhere and in every way exudes the fragrance of Christ. Some will breathe in this fragrance and will also long to wear such a scent. Others will sniff with caution, unsure if they desire to be permeated by this perfume. Still others will cover their noses; overpowered by the draw toward change which such a scent demands, they will turn away their faces not wanting the redolence of truth to affect their fixed focus. All who encounter the scent of reconciliation will have to make a choice between the abundant aroma of Life or the withering stench of death.

Yet no matter how others respond to the fragrance of reconciliation, my sole responsibility is to allow the aroma of Christ to invade every pore of my being. Christ is the aroma of life, to exude His perfume is my inheritance, my privilege, my calling, my ministry.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Ministry of Reconciliation, Part I

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old is gone, the new has come! All this is from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation...II Corinthians 5:17-18

Christ died for all mankind so that each individual man and woman could be reconciled to God. At God's request, the sinless Christ became sin, thus providing the way for us to know and become the righteousness of God.

Once we are in Christ, we are a new creation. As II Corinthians 5:17 says, the old is gone, the new has come! This is an incredible gift of God -- it is the gift of constant renewal and unending reconciliation. Colossians 2:6 explains the sustenance of this incredible gift: ...just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him...Christ Jesus is received by grace through faith when a soul confesses with his/her mouth that Jesus is Lord and believes in his/her heart that God raised Him from the dead. Likewise living in abundant newness of life is only possible by grace through faith.

This means the question which overshadows every second of a believer's life is: Who reigns?...Who reigns over my thoughts? Who reigns over my emotions? Who reigns over my body? Who reigns over every part of my life?

II Corinthians 5:15 tells us that Christ died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and rose again. Christ's death provided the way for the old man (the fleshly nature) to also die, thereby breaking the power of the old man in the life of any soul that would believe in His death and resurrection. The old man is only able to express himself when he has not been made subject to his Lord, when he is unreconciled to the truth of God.

Our calling is constant reconciliation, consistent alignment, to the truth of God. Alignment with the truth of God is only realized by grace through faith. This means that our mouths must continually confess that Jesus is Lord over every area of our lives and our hearts must continuously believe that His way is the only way of life, the only reality. Through continuous confession and belief, we are being crucified with Christ. By faith, we are bringing the old man's default actions into subjection, and the glorious outcome is Christ living in and through us. The life that is being lived in our body is lived by faith in the Son of God who lovingly gave Himself for us. (Galatians 2:19-20)

A life that is in every particular surrendered to truth is a life that is in every particular reconciled to truth. A truth-aligned life lives in the power of God; that same power that raised Jesus Christ from the dead is raising us to live in newness of life. Therefore, it is our ministry to live a truth-aligned life, for a life truly reconciled to God's truth causes others to ponder such reconciliation.

Part II will soon follow...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Great Faith, Part II

The humility with which the centurion approached Jesus makes me think of the words of Philippians 2:6-8. Describing Jesus Christ, this passage says: Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!

Jesus did not demand or cling to His rights as God. He sacrificially released these rights so that He could pay the price for the sins of all mankind. Jesus believed God's plan. He showed that He believed God's plan by submitting to God's authority. In speaking with the Father about the need to pay the world's sin debt, Jesus says, "...if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will." (Matthew 26:39)

Jesus' very life taught great faith. His life was about fulfilling God's will on earth as it was fulfilled in heaven. He recognized the authority of His loving Father and surrendered every claim of entitlement. If anyone could claim entitlement, it was Him, but He released everything to the Father: His body, His reputation, His equality -- all of it was relinquished without expectation. He felt the freedom to say, "Father, I really would like to pass on this one, isn't there another way?" But He did not have expectations regarding God's answer. He knew God loved Him, so He knew God's response would be good, not harmful, and would be marked by love. Period.

Jesus was mocked, beaten and crucified... How can you possibly say God's plan for Jesus was good and not harmful? It may have been good for us, but good for Him?

While Jesus' act of surrender fulfilled God's plan of redemption, it also was the act of faith which effected God's good plan for Him. Though mocked, beaten and crucified, Christ did not stay in the grave. He rose on the third day, and Philippians 2:9-11 tells us that God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. It is true, Jesus relinquished every possession, but He sits now at the right hand of His Father and will ultimately be given the possession of all things.

God's plan is always for the good of those that love Him. This is what Christ wants us to grasp: Great faith, recognizing God's authority over every part of our lives and relinquishing every thought of entitlement, precedes great fulfillment. God loves His children and wants to give them everything that is good, but ultimate fulfillment can only be realized through great faith.

Like the centurion, Jesus wants our lives to be described by the greatness of our faith, for great faith renders all glory to a great God.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Great Faith, Part I

This week I was struck by the story of the centurion in Luke 7:1-10. The Lord used the centurion's story to add a new facet to my understanding of faith.

While we are not given the name of the centurion, we are given a very distinct and positive picture of this man: He is not a Jew. He is a Roman soldier, a symbol of Roman occupation within the Jewish homeland. But despite his position as a centurion, he has formed relationships with the Jews (vs. 5) even to the extent that he has built them a synagogue. He is a man who has authority over others (vs. 8), and yet he values those under his authority.

This is a man of character. A man, who upon finding his servant ill, has a desire to see him restored to health. This centurion has heard of Jesus. He knows Jesus has healed others of varying diseases and ailments, so he sends Jewish elders to ask Jesus to come and heal his servant.

After hearing the elders plead with Him on behalf of the centurion, Jesus accompanies the elders to the centurion's house. As Jesus and the elders approach the house, the centurion sends friends out to say these words to Jesus, "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with servants under me, I tell this one 'Go' and he goes; and that one 'Come' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this' and he does it."

These are powerful and humble words. Words filled with an understanding of authority. Jesus is amazed by these words. He tells all those following Him that He has not found faith this great in all of Israel. The friends, who had been sent to talk with Jesus, then return to the centurion's house. Upon returning, they find the servant has been healed.

Jesus said the centurion had great faith. What made his faith great? He believed that Jesus could heal his servant, but there was a deeper level to his faith than just believing Jesus could heal. This centurion recognized Jesus' authority. He knew Jesus needed only to say "Go" and the illness would go from his servant's body. Not only that, he recognized that Jesus did not need to be in the servant's presence in order to heal him. He knew that if Jesus said the word it would be done. Period. This shows that he understood that Jesus' authority was unlike any other authority.

The centurion realized Jesus was the Answer to his servant's need, but he did not feel entitled to that Answer. He sought Jesus with humble recognition of His authority.

Part II will soon follow.....