Our society has a Ph.D. in alienation. Every teenager and every adult know what alienation is. Most of us have personal experience with alienation. Even though I wish it were not so, too many preteens have experienced alienation. Stated simply, alienation is the separation of two individuals or groups who have experienced togetherness. In this sense, alienation produces the unfriendliness, the hostility, or the indifference that separates two persons or two groups.

In the following, I used the most recent statistics available. In 1998, there were 1,135,000 divorces in the United States. In 1999, 27% [more than one in four] of the children in the United States lived in a one parent home. Over half of the Americans who are alive this morning will experience one or more step situations before they die. Each day 1,300 new step-families are formed in this country. Of these families, two out of three will divorce. Most divorced people remarry, and most remarriages involve children.

If we only consider family realities, most Americans experience alienation first hand. Yet, alienation experiences certainly are not restricted to family situations. Have you ever had a good friend who became an enemy?

  1. One of life's helpless feelings is the earnest desire to end alienation, and to be unable to end it.
    1. Consider an adult, of any age in any situation, who desperately wants alienation to end and reconciliation to begin, but cannot make it happen.
      1. This person's heart yearns for reconciliation.
      2. He or she make sincere efforts to reconcile, but every effort fails.
      3. He or she is confused because he or she does not understand why the alienation happened or why reconciliation cannot happen.
      4. Or, he or she is grieved because he or she knows what caused the alienation but cannot do anything about it.
    2. Consider an adult, of any age in any situation, who desperately wants alienation to end and reconciliation to begin with God, but thinks it is impossible.
      1. Do you remember an experience when you felt like a Mack truck hit you?
        1. You feel totally crushed.
        2. You do not know what hit you.
        3. You simply do not know what happened, but it was bad!
      2. Life's experiences can run over you like a eighteen-wheeler.
        1. Life's events can run over you with guilt, depression, despair, and grief.
        2. When they do, you can feel the separation from God.
        3. Your heart yearns for reconciliation.
        4. And you try to be "good enough" for association with God, but you cannot.
        5. You see your own flaws and failures, and you grieve--there is nothing you can do to change the past and "make it right."
    3. If what you do is search for a way that you of yourself can "fix" your relationship with God, you are right--there is nothing you can do.
      1. You of yourself cannot destroy the alienation.
      2. You of yourself cannot create reconciliation.
      3. You of yourself never can associate with God because you are "good enough."
      4. If what you are trying to do is deserve relationship with God, it cannot happen.

  2. Let's play a game of questions and answers.
    1. Question # 1: What was God's basic objective in sending Jesus to this world?
      1. Answer: "God's objective was to give the world a Savior."
      2. Most of us agree God's basic objective was to give the world a Savior.
    2. Question # 2: What is a Savior?
      1. Answer: "A Savior rescues us from a situation that will destroy us."
      2. Most of us agree that a Savior rescues us from destructive situations.
    3. Question # 3: How do people learn about this Savior?
      1. Answer: "People learn about the Savior by hearing the 'gospel.'"
      2. Most of us agree that people learn about the Savior by hearing the gospel.
    4. Question # 4: What is the "gospel"?
      1. Answer: "The 'gospel' is the 'good news.'"
      2. Most of us understand that "gospel" means "good news."
    5. Question # 5: What is the "good news"?
      1. I do not want to try to answer that question.
      2. In the claim of "preaching the gospel" the religious world has shared every attitude and perspective imaginable, and so have we.
      3. "Paul, why don't you help us understand what the good news is?"
        Colossians 1:19-22 For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in [Jesus], and through [Jesus] 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 [Jesus] has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach
        1. God the Father's pleasure was for the divine fullness to live in Jesus.
        2. God the Father's pleasure was to reconcile everything to Himself through Jesus.
        3. God the Father's pleasure was to make peace through the blood of Jesus' cross.
        4. The Christians at Colossae needed to understand before they were Christians their evil deeds alienated them from God.
        5. But, Jesus died on the cross to reconcile them to God.
        6. Jesus made it possible for people to stand before God as holy, blameless people who were beyond reproach.
        7. Christians can stand before God as holy and blameless because Jesus reconciled them to God.
        8. What is the good news? In Jesus, we are reconciled to God.
          Romans 5:10,11 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. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
        9. Paul told the Christians at Rome that God paid the full price for everyone's reconciliation while people were still enemies, still alienated from God.
        10. If God by choice paid the price of reconciliation while people were His enemies, God will do much more than that by saving us in Jesus' new life.
        11. So God is the Christian's greatest, highest joy. Why? Jesus Christ ended the alienation and reconciled us to God.
    6. Just how much did God want to reconcile us to Him?
      2 Corinthians 5:18-21 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. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
      1. You never wanted anything as much as God wants to reconcile us to Himself.
      2. Think of something you want and have wanted above everything else, and realize God wants reconciliation with you more.
      3. What God did in Christ was reconcile the world to himself.
      4. God gave Paul and his mission companions the ministry of reconciliation--God wanted them to inform everyone that God paid the price of reconciliation.
        1. God did not use Christ to take an accurate count of people's sins.
        2. God used Christ to destroy sin so we could have reconciliation.
      5. God wanted reconciliation so much that He made Jesus sin for us so we might become God's righteousness in Jesus.

  3. So, how do people react to that good news? Different people react in different ways.
    1. Some people react by declaring that is totally useless information
      1. In fact, they say it is not even information.
      2. To them there is no God, no good, no evil, no right, no wrong, no alienation, and no reconciliation.
      3. To them, religion is useless and Christianity is "bad news."
    2. Some people react by declaring, "I do not need reconciliation because I am basically a good person. Evil is not and never has been a problem in my life."
      1. "There are no absolutes; nothing is always good or bad."
      2. "Every consideration of good and evil is relative."
      3. "God is not upset with me--everything between God and me is cool."
      4. "God wants me to be happy, and that is what life is all about--me being happy."
    3. Some people react by acknowledging that guilt, despair, and depression are major problems.
      1. Many of these people try to "fix" problems on their own.
      2. They try to be good and do right, but the harder they try the deeper the guilt and despair become.
      3. Peace is not an option in their lives.
      4. They are convinced God would never look at them; their situation is hopeless.
    4. Some react by saying, "I do not need reconciliation nor an understanding of reconciliation."
      1. "God is obligated to take care of me."
      2. "I did what He said I must do."
      3. "God owes me."
      4. "Because God owes me, reconciliation is not an issue for me."
    5. Where are you? What is your reaction?

  4. I conclude the following scripture I want to share with you is Paul writing about himself.
    1. Paul had the whole range of experiences: keeper of the law, expert in the scriptures, religious persecutor, guilt's devastation, dependence on the grace of God.
    2. Please read and listen.
      1. Hear the despair.
      2. Hear the solution.
        Romans 7:18-8:2 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
        1. The despair: human effort cannot make a person pure. Our mistakes always condemn us.
        2. The solution: there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

[Prayer: God, help us accept and trust reconciliation in Jesus Christ.]

Are you alienated from God? Or, do you live in peace because you live in God's reconciliation?

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 25 February 2001

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