The subject of "reconciliation" introduces Christians in a more complete manner to a necessary understanding. God's acts in Jesus' death [the unveiling of the depth of His compassion and mercy] allow people from every culture to return to God. People, of themselves, could do [can do] nothing to heal their alienation from God. Surrender to evil broke the relationship existing between people and God. Only God could do the necessary that permitted reconciliation to occur. While we surely must respond to what God did and does if reconciliation is to occur, reconciliation occurs because of what God did, not because of what we do. God's power makes reconciliation possible. We cannot. If God was not agreeable to reconciliation with us through Christ, we would be helpless to make reconciliation occur.
Reconciliation is a fact to be accepted by faith when our sins are forgiven by God. In gratitude, we become God's obedient people. The motivation for our obedience is to express our gratitude to God for our reconciled relationship. The motivation must never be "earning" relationship with God or rewards from God. Judgment will judge Christians on the basis of their obedient deeds [and attitudes] which expressed gratitude to God for His accomplishments in Jesus Christ. Reconciliation will be a total reality when we are reunited with God for eternity.
Use marriage as an illustration. A couple filled with love and appreciation for each other marry. [God had an ideal relationship with man and woman when He created them.] In time, after marriage, the man takes his wife for granted. [Temptation, in different forms, confronted both Eve and Adam in the garden.] Because he takes his wife for granted, he neglects and abuses her. He causes her existence to be miserable. He never assists with 'in home' responsibilities or the kids. He sits around at home selfishly indulging himself. Every room he enters he leaves in a mess. He orders his wife to respond to his wishes. He expresses anger and irritation if she does not respond precisely as he expects. [People rebelled against God by saying 'yes' to evil.] The end result: she reaches a point when continuing to live with him and his abusiveness is not worth it. So, she separates herself from him with no intention of returning. [The impact of evil is a rejection of God's sovereignty. That produces alienation between God and people.]
The husband basically can respond in one of two ways. He can be so selfish, so self-centered, so loveless that this is his attitude: "Good riddance! Who needs her and the kids anyway? My life will be much better without her!" He has no desire for reconciliation and does not seek it.
Or, his wife's departure can powerfully sober him. He realizes his horrible behavior. He realizes he took her for granted and mistreated her. He realizes he drove her away by exploiting her love and faithfulness. With all his being, he wants reconciliation.
Note: the critical issue is not his desire for reconciliation, but her desire for reconciliation. If the 'wronged person' is not willing for reconciliation to happen, reconciliation cannot happen. Only through her kindness, grace, and love can the opportunity for reconciliation occur, no matter how deeply he yearns for it. [People 'wronged' God by rejecting His sovereignty when they said 'yes' to evil. Some want no reconciliation. Others want it deeply. However, reconciliation does not depend on the desire of those who 'wronged' God, but on God's willingness for reconciliation to occur.]
If the wife reenters a restored marriage relationship with her husband, she does not expect the reconciled relationship to be the old abusive relationship. If he is neglectful, abusive, angry, demanding, unhelpful, and irritable toward her, the result is predictable. Reconciliation will fail. Her patience and forgiveness have limits. If he deeply appreciates reconciliation, and demonstrates appreciation through thoughtful acts and attitudes, helpfulness, expressions of love, respect, and patience, their marriage will know success unknown prior to reconciliation.
As noted in lesson seven, God did not save us so we could continue living a lifestyle ruled and controlled by evil. Stated another way, God did not extend us reconciliation for us to continue living and thinking like those people who are not reconciled to God. Reconciliation to God demands a 'renewing of the mind' which produces a completely different life (Romans 12:1,2). In reconciliation, God creates us again. We are created by God through Christ to 'put on the new self' created in God's likeness to exhibit His righteousness and the holiness of truth (Ephesians 4:24). Reconciled people are to be renewed to a true knowledge that comes from the image of the One who created him or her (Colossians 3:10).
Reconciliation must express itself in changed attitudes, emotions, and behavior. If reconciliation to God is not followed by changed attitudes, emotions, and behavior, at some point the person reconciled to God again will alienate himself or herself from God (2 Peter 2:20-22, noting the statement's context).
Reconciliation to God does not take a person out of the physical world in rebellion against God's sovereignty. Reconciliation to God does not remove a person from his or her temptable physical body. Reconciliation to God means the person surrenders to God's sovereignty as he or she lives in a world rebelling against God's sovereignty. Reconciliation's peace is not experienced in a physical existence free from struggle. In fact, reconciliation to God places the person 'out of step' with a world rebelling against God. The peace comes (1) from knowing that ultimately he or she who acknowledges God's sovereignty will experience 'good' (Romans 8:28) and (2) from knowing that nothing that occurs in this rebellious world can separate the reconciled from God's love (Romans 8:31-39).
Christians will be judged by Christ on the basis of how their deeds demonstrated their appreciation of reconciliation. They express appreciation through their dedication to God's priorities. The core of God's priorities focus on the treatment they extend to other people (consider Matthew 23:23,24; 25:31-46; Romans 14 noting verses 10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10.)
Consider 2 Corinthians 5:20,21. First, note that Paul wrote this to Christians in Corinth. Second, note their reconciliation to God was a continuing responsibility, not a 'one time event.' Third, note Paul emphasized their failure to understand salvation's objective. He urged these Christians to be reconciled to God. Their behavior had not reflected their salvation. They could be God's righteousness as redeemed people only because God, who was 'wronged,' made Jesus "to be sin" in his sacrificial death. Paul urged them not to receive God's grace in vain (2 Corinthians 6:1, remembering the chapter and verse divisions were made about 1500 years after Paul wrote this letter).
Discussion question: link reconciliation at salvation, after salvation, and in eternity.
Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 8
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