Sunday, November 25, 2012

The ministry of reconciliation

Will anyone go to Hell for having an abortion?
Will anyone go to Heaven for never having an abortion?
Is a homosexual saved by going straight?
Are we saved by our behavior?

Galatians 2:16 Yet we know that a man is justified or reckoned righteous and in right standing with God not by works of the Law, but [only] through faith and [absolute] reliance on and adherence to and trust in Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One). [Therefore] even we [ourselves] have believed on Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the Law [for we cannot be justified by any observance of the ritual of the Law given by Moses], because by keeping legal rituals and by works no human being can ever be justified (declared righteous and put in right standing with God).

 And here is John Piper, a teetotaler and an advocate of teetotalling, putting his young pastoral ministry on the line at Bethlehem Baptist Church in 1982 in order to argue against a provision requiring teetotalling for church membership;
"I want to hate what God hates and love what God loves.
And this I know beyond the shadow of a doubt: God hates legalism as much as he hates alcoholism.
If any of you still wonders why I go on supporting this amendment after hearing all the tragic stories about lives ruined through alcohol, the reason is that when I go home at night and close my eyes and let eternity rise in my mind, I see ten million more people in hell because of legalism than because of alcoholism. And I think that is a literal understatement. Satan is so sly. “He disguises himself as an angel of light,” the apostle says in 2 Corinthians 11:14. He keeps his deadliest diseases most sanitary. He clothes his captains in religious garments and houses his weapons in temples. O don’t you want to see his plots uncovered? . . .
Legalism is a more dangerous disease than alcoholism because it doesn’t look like one.
Alcoholism makes men fail; legalism helps them succeed in the world.
Alcoholism makes men depend on the bottle; legalism makes them self-sufficient, depending on no one.
Alcoholism destroys moral resolve; legalism gives it strength.
Alcoholics don’t feel welcome in church; legalists love to hear their morality extolled in church.
Therefore, what we need in this church is not front-end regulations to try to keep ourselves pure. We need to preach and pray and believe that 'Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision, neither teetotalism nor social drinking, neither legalism nor alcoholism is of any avail with God, but only a new creation (a new heart)' (Galatians 6:15; 5:6).” 

Not only will we “see ten million more people in hell because of legalism than because of alcoholism,” we will see no one in Hell based on their behavior (i.e. sin), but only based on their lack of belief and trust in Jesus as the final sacrifice for their sin.

John 3:
He who believes in Him [who clings to, trusts in, relies on Him] is not judged [he who trusts in Him never comes up for judgment; for him there is no rejection, no condemnation—he incurs no damnation]; but he who does not believe (cleave to, rely on, trust in Him) is judged already [he has already been convicted and has already received his sentence] because he has not believed in and trusted in the name of the only begotten Son of God. [He is condemned for refusing to let his trust rest in Christ’s name.]

Runners run.  Fishermen fish.  Sinners sin.
So why are we allowing ourselves to be so sidetracked?!
Why are we working so hard to change people’s behavior?
Why are we marching against abortion and homosexuality when people need transformation instead of behavior modification?

"The danger is that the church will communicate by both direct and indirect means that what God expects of fallen humanity is moral improvement. In so doing, the church subverts the Gospel and communicates a false gospel to a fallen world."

Rather than trying to change the behavior of a sinner, how about you and I focus on seeing individuals changed from the inside out by the power of the Gospel of the Grace of Jesus.

"Love the sinner, hate the sin? How about: Love the sinner, hate your own sin! I don't have time to hate your sin. There are too many of you! Hating my sin is a full-time job. How about you hate your sin, I'll hate my sin and let's just love each other!"
- Mark Lowry

Is God sending judgment on the US because of our sin?

First, consider this;

Ezekiel 16:49
Sodom’s sins were pride, gluttony, and laziness, while the poor and needy suffered outside her door.

“The Bible does not leave us in any doubt regarding God’s character. It proclaims God’s infinite goodness and mercy. We are specifically told that God has now reconciled in Christ the world unto Himself and He no longer counts men’s trespasses against them (2 Cor. 5:19). We are clearly told that Jesus is the propitiation for both our sins and the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). God has committed the word of reconciliation to us. It is a message of mercy and forgiveness. He is not angry with mankind. We are now living in the dispensation of God’s grace and favor and His goodness is drawing people to repentance (Rom. 2:4).”

Isaiah 54
Just as I swore in the time of Noah
    that I would never again let a flood cover the earth,
so now I swear
    that I will never again be angry and punish you.
10 For the mountains may move
    and the hills disappear,
but even then my faithful love for you will remain.
    My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”
    says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

To understand God, look at Jesus.

John 3:17
For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him.

2 Corinthians 5
It was God [personally present] in Christ, reconciling and restoring the world to favor with Himself, not counting up and holding against [men] their trespasses [but cancelling them], and committing to us the message of reconciliation (of the restoration to favor).

As believers, we have been given the ministry of reconciliation, not a ministry of protest.