To Reconcile us to God - "Sunnyhill" Herne Bay Evangelical Free Church

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To Reconcile us to God


To Reconcile us to God

"For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life."

Reconciliation is a lovely positive word and it is a word that is in regular everyday use. At its simplest it means the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement.

So we find the word being employed in a wide range of different contexts:

  • It was used in the title of a body set up in 1995 by the new government in post-apartheid South Africa: The Truth and Reconciliation Commission whose function was to bring about healing to a divided nation.

  • A husband and wife fall out. Their differences and disagreements have progressed far beyond being minor irritants to causing a full-blown breakdown in their relationship. If their marriage is to be saved in any meaningful way there is need of reconciliation.

  • In the world of business and trade unions resort is often made to ACAS – a conciliation service which tries to resolve differences before matters escalate. Here it is recognised that it will be easier to prevent a complete rupture of relationships than it will be to restore those relationships once ruptured.

When reconciliation is used in the Bible it generally refers to the bringing to an end the problem of our estrangement to God and his estrangement to us.

Estrangement and the need for reconciliation
There are always at least two parties to every estrangement though the contribution of the different parties may be very different.

In relationships between humans there is likely to be a degree of responsibility in both parties for any breakdown – after all we are all flawed people.

But the situation is radically different when it comes to God and us.

As creatures we humans owe God our obedience but instead we have offered him the disobedience of our sin. We have moved away from him and estrangement is the result. We are in the wrong and there is no doubt about it.
On the other hand God, who is holy and cannot approve of sin, has, as it were turned away from us sinners and the estrangement between us is compounded as God now treats us as enemies. God is completely right to do this as the fault lies entirely on our side.

Now the majority of folk don’t think of themselves as enemies of God in any way and many don’t think of themselves as being hostile towards him and yet that is precisely how the Bible describes us all before we are converted:

Rom.8:7-8 "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God."

If reconciliation is to be secured then both sides to this estrangement must be addressed and the Bible tells us that it was God who took the first step – indeed if reconciliation is to be achieved it has to begin with him. Until God works "the flesh" is powerless to do anything at all to please God.

And the Bible tells us precisely this that God did take the initiative, he did take the first step, and he did so "while we were enemies", for it was "while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us."

The first thing that God did in reconciling us to himself  (2Cor.5:19) was to remove the obstacle that had made him irreconcilable, namely our sin. This he did by sending Jesus into the world to die upon the cross of Calvary.

When Jesus died he reconciled the Father to the Father’s people. On Good Friday when Jesus paid for our sin and made atonement for us by means of his perfect sacrifice he fully satisfied God’s wrath – it was the end of the estrangement on God’s part!

We are reconciled to God because he, the injured party, is satisfied with the sacrifice of his Son in our place. God is reconciled to us even though at the moment of reconciliation we remained estranged from him due to our sin and our sinful fallen nature.

Our full and personal experience of such a wonderful reconciliation does not begin until our own opposition and hostility towards him is brought to an end. This end is secured when the Holy Spirit gives us new life, breaks our hardened hearts, and leads us joyfully back into a loving relationship with the Father through the Son.

When the preacher or the evangelist takes up the words of Scripture and cries:

2Cor.5:20 "We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God"

he means far more than "change your attitude towards God". This gospel invitation, this gospel imperative, means firstly "believe and receive the work that God has already done in Christ to reconcile you to himself! "

Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility
Preachers have two extremes to avoid and depending upon their thinking they will all be tempted to lean one way or the other and yet it is important not to become one-sided or unbalanced. Some preachers will so stress the divine initiative in salvation that all human responsibility and activity is ignored. Others do the exact reverse. Scripture holds the two together.

Justification is God’s work in Christ, specifically in his death. Men cannot contribute anything to this but that does not mean man has nothing whatsoever to do: he must receive his justification by faith ie. he must believe and receive what Christ has done for him – without faith he will not be justified and without faith he not draw near to God or please him. It doesn’t matter that the faith he exercises is given to him by God it is the man or the woman who must personally exercise that faith – no-one will exercise that faith on their behalf.

The same is true with regard to reconciliation. Reconciliation is secured by God through the death of his son and offered to us as a gift:

Rom.5:10-11 "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation."

We need to be reconciled to God because we have been estranged from him by our sin but our very sinfulness makes it impossible for us to reconcile ourselves to him, we must be the recipients of his gracious generosity towards us. That is why Paul speaks here in Romans 5 of Christians having received reconciliation. Reconciliation is God’s work which we must nevertheless receive in obedience and in faith.

The invitation/command calls upon us to be reconciled to God – we must be obedient and receive what is secured for us. And having received we are to live our lives joyfully as those who have benefitted from God’s wonderful kindness to us in Jesus Christ.

If we are Christians we have no reason to be joyless. Our blessings of justification and reconciliation are not dependent upon our circumstances and therefore we can and should enjoy our blessings regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Reconciled through Christ and in particular through his death
It is perhaps tempting at times to so focus upon our blessings that we forget that all of our blessings come to us by virtue of our union with Jesus Christ.

Fundamentally God does not give us a series of independent blessings but a Saviour who brings multitudes of blessings with him.

We should not for a moment imagine that we can function independently of Jesus in the spiritual realms in the experience and enjoyment of our blessings. Jesus himself taught as much when he taught his disciples the need to abide in him, to remain in him, to dwell in him.

We have access now to the Father - but only because of what Jesus has done for us. We have peace with God - but only because of what Jesus has done for us. We are not only declared not guilty but righteous in God’s sight - but only because of what Jesus has done for us. For all eternity we are and will be kept safe - but only because of what Jesus has done for us.

How we need to keep this in the forefront of our minds and avoid slipping into thinking that we have in ourselves now some direct-line or inner-track that no longer needs to pass by the Saviour!

Practically we remind ourselves of this by using his name in prayer – not as some kind of magical password but as a conscious reminder that all we are and all we ever will be spiritually depends upon him. We don’t need to pepper our prayers with repeated use of his name but we do need to ensure that he remains at the heart and at the centre of all we do.

Reconciliation to be Enjoyed
Finally I want to add  a few words about how we should profit from this reconciliation that has been secured for us by the death of our Saviour.

Consider for a moment this fictional couple: I wonder what you make of them. They had separated because of some problems but now they say that all those problems have been resolved. They declare themselves to be reconciled. But then you discover that they are continuing to live apart having very little to do with each other.

I’m pretty sure you’d agree with me that whatever they might call their new relationship it doesn’t look much like reconciliation. An agreement to differ perhaps. An agreement to go their own separate ways, yes... but hardly reconciliation.

Let me remind you again of the dictionary definition with which we began:

"the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement."

Reconciliation oozes warmth and renewed closeness doesn’t it?

Well then when we look at our own lives how much warmth towards God do we feel? How much intimacy with him do we experience?

Surely if God has gone to such lengths to end his estrangement from us due to our sin then it is only natural and proper for us to want to enjoy the new friendship we have with him by virtue of Jesus’s death. Spending time with God, thinking about him, praising him and talking to him ought to be our joy and delight not some duty to be hastily and reluctantly carried out carried out.

There are some many examples of restored relationships in the Scriptures and they all have something to say to us about our own restored relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Jacob experienced a totally unexpected reconciliation with his brother Esau. Jacob had wronged his brother and fled for safety. Returning many years later he heard Esau was coming to meet him with a large company of men and he feared the worst. The gifts he sent weren’t wanted but Esau did meet him in peace. However years of double dealing and twisting left Jacob unable to trust his brother and he decided to live at some distance from him.

Christian you have come home and been well met – don’t think that you must keep away from your Heavenly Father as Jacob kept away from Esau.

Think of Joseph and his brothers. They had treated him so badly but he treated them so well in return. When Jacob their father died the brothers were filled with apprehension – perhaps Joseph had only been delaying the inevitable while Jacob was alive and now he’d take the chance to get even.  The fears were misplaced and Joseph continued to treat them well.

Sometimes Christians too have a hard time believing that their sins have been fully dealt with, maybe you do. Maybe you fear that a change in your circumstance will give God the opportunity he’s been waiting for, to have done with you. But let me tell you God is a better more constant friend than Joseph ever was to his brothers! He sent Jesus to die for your sins and to secure your reconciliation – he will never go back on that and nor does he want to!

Then we have the Song of Solomon with the passionate story of two lovers and the ups and downs of their relationship. It is often regarded as a picture or a Christ’s relationship with his bride, the church. There is an interesting section in ch.5 where the bride has been cold towards her bridegroom and slow to respond to his advances as he’s knocked at the door. By the time she drags herself to open the door – he’s gone and what sorrow fills her heart. She races out to try to find him – how foolishly she’s behaved and how she longs to be reconciled to him again and to enjoy his company again.

It’s not easy for her and she encounters discouragement and opposition in her efforts to find him but she keeps on until she is finally rewarded.

You know that there is such a thing as a first love for Christ and there is such a thing as losing it. The bride in the Song of Solomon illustrates how complacency and comfort can come between us and the Lord and then before we know it his presence is withdrawn. Jesus wrote to the church in Ephesus about the very same thing. Does he address his words of warning to us too? Are we in danger of losing our first love? Perhaps you even fear it is too late to do anything about it.

God has reconciled us to himself through the death of his Son! He will not go back on what he has done. Jesus’ words to the church in Ephesus were a warning to them and an invitation to return to the warmth and intimacy of their earlier relationship. You may feel that have you lost your first love, you may even feel that you have abandoned your first love on many occasions – but don’t draw the conclusion that it’s too late for change:

Rev.2:5 "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent."

Then he added "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." (v.7)

And how willing the Lord is for his people to enjoy warmth and intimacy with him! Just remind yourselves of what he said to those wretched Laodiceans:

Rev.3:20 "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me."

We have been reconciled to live in communion with our gracious God – let us realise that that is a wonderful blessing, something richly to be enjoyed so let us get on and enjoy it to the glory of God!


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