If every Christian has been reconciled to God—been brought into perfect agreement with Him—then while we are completely safe with Him, having no need to hide or pretend around Him, we’ve got to be completely safe around each other. If we’ll see each other not just by how we look or behave (as the world sees, v. 16), but by our birth in Christ, our approach to people will be invigorating and dynamic and full of the Spirit.
In our last session at last weekend’s retreat, we looked at how the vitality of the church is dependent upon the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:16-21), not only to those who have not received Christ, but also to those who have.
If we don’t believe we’re safe with God, or if we don’t believe we’re safe with each other, we’ll cover up and manufacture an image or a persona that will seemingly get what we want. This is essentially what Adam and Eve did in the garden after not trusting God. Seems we’ve learned the pattern well. However, we won’t know how to live by the Spirit because we’ll have become used to living by the flesh. We’ll have exchanged grace and freedom for wages and slavery.
To see if you’ve been affected, I want to ask you a question: If people suddenly found out that you often got sloppily drunk, or that you were in an affair, were lately looking at pornography, or had just had an abortion, who would you be most afraid of meeting: a roomful of Christians from your church, or a room full of people you didn’t know?
If you chose the former (a room full of Christians from your church), then you’re in agreement with 90% of the people I’ve posed this same question to. Think for a moment about what that means. The implications are devastating. We’re a church that doesn’t like or trust each other—not really.
See what’s happened? We’ve been pushed away from the gospel that is staggeringly great news about us, and the accusations of the devil have found their mark (Col 1:21-23). We’re led to believe the cover-up or the pretender lifestyle is better than the truth. Heavens! And that’s how Christians become unknown to themselves.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
If we’re going to “minister reconciliation” to those made alive in Christ so they can live freely, three things will be needed:
- They have to know that the way they were before being born again was and is dead. Picture for them that they were something out of a zombie film, and you’ve helped them.
- They have to know that to live at all the way they once did is impossible. With God now living inside, the way forward is all new and different—by the Spirit.
- They have to know that you’ll help them live in the freedom and safety and confidence of their new identity. You’ll remind them of the gospel, and you’ll help see to it that they’re not pushed away from the truth and that there will never again be a moment of condemnation—not from God and not from you.
You may begin.
(Some of this teaching is found in my book primarily in the fourteenth chapter: Stripping Mummies - Finding Freedom and Life Outside the Tomb. You can see and order “God’s Astounding Opinion of You” at http://lifecourse.org/Ralphs_Book.html, or through Amazon, Christianbook, and your local bookstore.)