When you hear the word “God” spoken, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For many, it is terms like “all powerful”, “ruler”, “judge”, “creator” and it is certainly true that God is indeed all of these things. Yet He is so much more. One of the more popular cliché statements used in our current culture is that Christianity is not about religion, but about relationship… and while that is absolutely true, for many of us, the truth of that statement is lost in our daily lives.
For many people the relationship with God does not progress beyond the basic “Christian behaviors” and rituals that most people perform because it is what they think a good Christian is supposed to do. I’ve spoken with people time and time again who are not actually living out of a true relationship with Jesus, but out of rituals and traditions that are empty and unfulfilling. And they flounder around – many of them their entire life, searching for something that they don’t even know exactly what, because they can sense something is missing but they have not made the connection, that what is missing is the foundation of a real relationship with Jesus Christ. This is what we will be studying today.
We studied last week how one of the things that can “spoil” us and actually draw us away from Jesus are traditions (Colossians 2:8); and many people live their entire lives on a strange form of religious autopilot, full of traditions, and missing the relationship. I’m going to surprise you with a few Biblical truths today, the first of which being that Jesus did not die on the cross simply so that you could pray a prayer to get to Heaven… Jesus actually died on the cross so that your relationship with Him that was broken in the Garden of Eden could be totally restored. He died so that you would actually be made one with Him and partake of His nature. You see, it’s not about you getting into Heaven, it’s about Heaven getting into you – that’s not just a clever phrase or a sound-bite, that’s Biblical reality. I hope you understand that Heaven is called Heaven because Jesus is there. If Jesus wasn’t there, Heaven would not be Heaven at all. And Jesus died on that cross so that you could be rejoined to God and the Spirit of Christ could indwell you, and that you would be made complete in Him. (Colossians 2:9-10)
God wants you to live in the fullness and completeness of everything that He originally created you to be, and that is only possible, through Him and receiving Him. However, most of us are operating on autopilot, just going through our traditions, going to a building because it’s Sunday, or Wednesday – letting our religious activities take the place of our relationship with Jesus.
I’ve talked to people who used to attend our studies, and they admitted that they saw our studies as just another item on a long checklist of religious things that they do every week. Please do not ever go to a building because it’s Sunday… you don’t “go to church”, you are the church (Ephesians 1:22-23); and please don’t attend our studies simply as a “religious activity”. The reason why we study the scriptures, is because we are in love with Jesus and we are receiving His love and we are transformed by beholding more of Him. (2nd Corinthians 3:18).
Jesus has given us the entire Kingdom by giving us Himself. The very same Spirit that raised Jesus Christ from the dead dwells in you and quickens (makes alive, revitalizes, regenerates, rejuvenates) your mortal body. That’s how much God loves you, that He sacrificed His one and only begotten, beloved Son, to redeem and restore you to Himself. And we are given the ministry of reconciliation (not the Law, not works, not traditions) (2nd Corinthians 5:18). This is the first of our important points today on our study, because there are many leaders in Christian communities who are not bringing people the message of reconciliation, but precisely one of laws, works, efforts, striving and traditions. Presenting a God who is angry, harsh and demanding. Turn to 2nd Corinthians 5, and let’s read verses 17-21:
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses to them; and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God.
For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
Look at the way verse 17 starts… If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creature. Most people stumble right here because they don’t actually see themselves as new in Christ – they are still trying to make themselves new, that’s the reason for many of their traditions in-fact! Because they are trying to achieve through themselves, what can only be received as a free gift through Christ and His gift of love through His sacrifice. Notice that old things are passed away. That’s it! They are gone! It is done! We are not trying to throw them away, they are gone now, we are to reckon (account) our old selves as dead now, and we are to live in the newness of Christ right now as well. (Romans 7:4, Galatians 2:9, Ephesians 2), then verse 17 continues to say Behold, in-other-words, look and see! What are we supposed to see? All things are become new. That sounds pretty cool, so tell me more about these new things…
Well, verse 18, all things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ. That word reconciled means to return to favor. You have been returned to favor with God! You are not trying to get favor or earn favor – no you have it now because of Jesus Christ. You have as much favor as Jesus Himself has! And now that you have it, you should be living in that truth every day. We should allow ourselves to be baptized in that truth, to be wrapped-up in that truth, let the finished work of Christ embrace our life, because that is where the love of God is for us! The very outpouring and the demonstration of His love of us is embodied by the sacrifice and finished work of Jesus Christ!
Hold your place here for a moment and turn with me real quick to Romans 5:8-11:
“But God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”
God demonstrated, He proved and made manifest His love for us while we were still sinners, while we were dead corpses, we were walking dead, He endured massive suffering the likes of which no-one had ever even imagined, and the only reason He did it was because of His love. He was under no obligation to save us, it would’ve been much easier to wipe us out and begin again… but His love constrained Him. Love held Him to that cross, not the nails. Never forget that.
Now being justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him… that is why you will never need to endure the tribulation by the way. Then verse 10 gives the perfect argument based on the love of God, If we were reconciled to God while we were enemies, through the sacrifice of Jesus, now being reconciled, much more then we will be saved by His life. It’s such a simple message that a child can understand that logic. However so many people are missing the love of God because they are buried under mountains of legalism, traditions of men, vain rituals and blinded by their own intellect many times.
Then verse 11, not only are we saved and safe in Christ, but in Jesus is also where we find joy in God. A lot of people don’t find Gd joyful, because as mentioned the relationship simply isn’t there. It’s so important to always remind yourself of the love of God, because the world and all the religions of the world, and man-made devices and doctrines are all centered on man… they are works-based, merit-based traps that try to replace the relationship with religion. They try to replace the life of the Spirit with stone tablets of the Law. Notice at the end of verse 11, we have now received the atonement. We are not trying to receive the atonement, nor are we waiting to receive it… we have it now in Jesus Christ.
Now go back to 2nd Corinthians 5, and let’s read the second-half of verse 18 with the fresh understanding that we just received from Romans… we have been reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, and having received reconciliation, we are given the message of reconciliation.
Do you see how one come before the other? Do you see how one facilitates the other and supplies the other and how one flows from the other?
There are a lot of empty vessels floating around Christian communities, there are a lot of thirsty people walking around pretending like they are full, acting like they are filled and have it all together but in reality they are parched and hungry and falling apart because they have never been taught or told what we are studying here today. We have a lot of people who are very active in their church who are spiritually dying of thirst and starving for spiritual food, when Jesus said those who come to Him will never hunger or thirst again. (John 4:14, 6:35)
I’ve talked with people who are serving in this ministry, attending that conference, participating in this outreach… and all of these things have taken the place of being in relationship with Christ and receiving from Him. He must serve you and fill you, before you can share with anyone else. And if the main goal and drive of your life is to serve… then I’m sorry to break the news to you, you’ve still missed the point. Because the ultimate point of Christ coming and sacrificing Himself is not to make you a worker – He didn’t come to make you into a slave or a servant. He came to restore you and reconcile you to Himself. You are to be a partaker of His divine nature and be a recipient for His love and who He is. And the natural outflow of that is that you love others naturally – but the absolute central focus and foundation is Him and His love, not you and “what you can do for Him.”
There are a lot of people “working for Christ”, but they are working out of themselves, not truly having a real relationship with God and because they have no real relationship they don’t understand what His message for the world really is. Look at verses 20 and 21:
“Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be you reconciled to God.
For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
The real message of God, the very Gospel of Jesus Christ is all centered on what He has done, His finished work and a call to return to Him because the door is now wide open – Jesus Himself is the door! (John 10:9).
Notice what the call of Christ Jesus is… be reconciled to God. The call is not to clean yourself up first, it’s not to do good works (or any work for that matter), it’s not do perform penance, or to cry bitter remorseful tears. It is simply “Be reconciled.”
It is sad to say, that in many Christian communities today, this simple call from verse 20 would be considered blasphemous heresy. People would say “You need to turn from your sin first! You need to make Jesus your LORD before He can be your savior!” and we put all these extra things that Jesus never put. These arguments are common, and they sound right to a lot of people. However do you notice that with those two arguments about turning from sin and making Jesus your LORD have both shifted the focus back onto man and self, and have added extra steps before receiving from Jesus?
This is precisely why verse 21 exists in your Bible, because verse 21 squashes both arguments directly with the love of Jesus and what He has done for us (while we were yet sinners, mind you). Look at verse 21:
“For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
This is why all people can simply be reconciled to God today. Without any added steps or prerequisites. The veil has been torn down from top to bottom by God Himself. The way is open – simply receive Jesus!
Jesus who had no sin of His own, received all of your sin, so that we could freely receive His righteousness! He did no sin, yet He was condemned as a sinner with our sin. Likewise, without doing any righteousness, we can be blessed and accepted as completely righteous in Him!
That is the marvelous reality of the love of God. That is what we are to always remember. This is the message of reconciliation in Christ Jesus, and this is the Gospel that should be being preached and what people should be hearing.
1st Corinthians 13 makes a huge point about saying, if you have everything else, and understanding everything, but do not have love you are nothing. We tend to misinterpret that as meaning that we should “express love to others”, but as we saw here today, the real way to “have love” is to be receiving it from Jesus yourself personally, then it flows out of you.
I’ll encourage you today with one more scripture today as we close our study. Jude 1:20-21:
“But you, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.”
It’s very easy to forget the love of God and fall back into works, efforts, striving and traditions. Jude here reminds us, to build ourselves up in faith. It’s not wrong to build ourselves up as long as it is the right way, which is in Christ and the reality of His finished work, of His righteousness on us, because it’s precisely what He has come to do. By praying in the Spirit, which is the ultimate expression of the reality of Christ, you can only pray in the Spirit because Jesus finished the work and made you a fitting vessel for His Spirit to indwell, so by you praying in the Spirit you are actually a living testimony that He accomplished the work and His Spirit is in you.
Then verse 21, Keep yourself in the love of God, don’t let anything move you from the position of the love of God. Don’t let any legalistic or religious preacher talk you out of it. And don’t let any thought or feeling from hell cause you to doubt the position that Jesus gave to you through His sacrifice.
…looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.
The word “looking” there, is prosdekhomai in Greek, meaning “to admit or accept”; we should be continually confessing the mercy of God and the finished work of Christ. Many people confess sins at the drop of a hat, instead of confessing the finished work of Jesus. It’s time we start to live the reality of what He has done. Keep ourselves in the love of God. And manifest Him to the world.