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Reconciled to God by Jesus Christ (Col. 1:21-23)

Our Sins Estranged Us from God (v. 21)

A Broken Relationship with God Ruins Your Life

“Alienation” means to be a stranger to something or to someone. It means to be “other,” an outsider, estranged. The word brings our modern miseries to mind. Studies reveal that many of us feel estranged from life, from others, from God, and even from ourselves. We feel like we do not belong. We must trace this back to the source, or else we shall not find the cure. We are made in God’s image. Our life as his creatures is to know him and serve him. But, when we are strangers to him, we become estranged from one another, think the worst of anyone who disagrees with us, and prefer private delusions to the truth. Alienated from God, we do not know who we really are, and our thoughts turn proud and vain – but uncomfortable at the same time. Alienated from God, men are not loving husbands and faithful fathers but self-gratifiers and pacifiers. Their homes show the impact of this estrangement from God in unhappy and unloved wives and disillusioned children. The alienation sinners feel is due to their estrangement from God. A broken relationship with him ruins our lives. It ruins everything we are and touch.

It ruined Adam and Eve at the beginning, as they hid from the One to whom they should have run with broken hearts. Estranged from God by sin, the old world was corrupted and perished in Noah’s Flood. From Nimrod and Babel to the Greeks and Romans, the pre-Christ world tried to find truth, peace, and prosperity, but “what is truth?” was the dead end of their estrangement from God. All is ruined without fellowship with our Maker. Our present perversity, tribalism, anti-Christ statism, endless wars, consumerism, pleasure-seeking, self-serving, and all the rest, these are all the fruits of trying to live normally while being at odds with God. It cannot be done. “Enemies” is strong but true. By sinning, we make war on God – his authority over us, his word, and our existence as his image-bearers. He is the inescapable fact of our existence, for he made us for himself. But we have rebelled against him, and therefore against our own life. It is miserable not to be in a healthy relationship with God. It is to be alienated from our own purpose and peace.

Our Very Thoughts Opposed Him

Our estrangement runs deep. The sinner’s thoughts are opposed to the Lord, and thus the understanding is darkened (Eph. 4:18). We were made to think God’s thoughts and meditate upon his word day and night. We did not, and darkness consumed our mind. Cold thoughts about God, hateful thoughts, finally God-denying thoughts dominated us. Why does the apostle speak of these things to professing believers? Unless we remember what sin did to us, we can never appreciate how the Lord’s grace has lifted us up. And we do forget – all the time. Sin becomes something out there in the world, but not in us. This is the reason the Spirit taught the Corinthians to let God judge the world. We must judge ourselves (1 Cor. 5:13; 11:31). Part of honest self-judgment is confessing what sin has done to us. It did not stop in our thoughts but bore fruit in “wicked works.” When God is not in all our thoughts, when his fellowship is not our delight and his word our light, sin spreads its tentacles throughout our lives. Unchecked by his grace, sin spreads to “work all uncleanness with a continual thirst for more” (Eph. 4:19). Make no mistake. God’s enemies show their hatred for him in their thoughts and lives, their families, economies, and nations. Only fellowship with God is safe and healthy.

Christ’s Death Reconciled Us to God (v. 22)

Peace Restored through His Death

It is harder to find a sweeter word than “reconciled”. In our alienated and enemy status, the Lord graciously reconciled us. We were the offending party in the relationship. We rebelled against him. We preferred our foolish thoughts to his righteous ones. We told him we did not want to live in his world on his terms, but on ours. We stopped loving him, stopped fearing him, and stopped worshipping him – even though he made us and made us to be and feel complete when in his fellowship praising him. Despite our bold evil, he was the initiator of reconciliation. He is the peacemaker, not us. And the way he chose to do this still has heaven and humbled hearts adoring – by laying the chastisement of our peace upon his beloved Son (Isa. 53:5). There was a price to be paid if we were to be reconciled. Sentiment alone would not be enough, not even the holy love of God. He is also just and “cannot leave the guilty unpunished” (Ex. 34:7). In amazing grace and love, he provided the blood price for our redemption. By “the body of his flesh through death,” we are restored to a right standing and thus right relationship with God.

It is at the cross we learn that our estrangement from God is more than relational. This is where many modern versions of the gospel fail. They focus upon the existential, subjective side of our estrangement from God – how it makes us feel – but this is not the whole truth or the main truth about our estrangement from God. If we focus only upon our side of things, how we feel and what sin has done to us, we shall not see the glory of God’s grace or give ourselves fully and completely to him. By breaking his law, the sword of justice is unsheathed against us. God’s justice forbids peace, for there is peace only in righteousness (Ps. 119:165). For the Lord to be at peace with us, he sent his Son. He laid upon his Son the full and dreadful punishment that our sins deserve. The Son willingly humbled himself to be this sacrifice. He had to be God in order to offer a sacrifice worthy of the holiness and justice of God. He had to be man to suffer the torments of body and soul due to us on account of our wicked works and warfare against our Maker. Only the death of Jesus Christ makes peace with God, on God’s side, so that we can then enjoy being reconciled to him. Be a man ever so good according to the light of nature, or scrupulous in the religion he professes, he can do nothing to change God’s attitude toward him. We cannot change our standing with an offended God. He did this. He reconciled us to himself. He sent his Son. Praise him!!

He Presents Us: A Great Sacrificial Interchange

The “body of his flesh” is a fuller way of saying that our Lord Jesus had a true human body, and in that body, by that body, he paid the ransom price of our redemption from sin’s curse. By his death, he took our crimes upon himself and paid fully for them. He also presented us to God by his sacrifice. An exchange or interchange took place. Our whole salvation lies in this one word “present.” Instead of our being presented before God for judgment, upon that last and dreadful day, when the glory of Jesus Christ is revealed as the great Judge of the living and the dead, he presented himself on the cross to bear our judgment. And making a full satisfaction for sin, he presents us to God.  As the resurrected Lord of all and Mediator of the covenant, he presents us now to the Father. Through faith in the crucified Son of God, we draw near to God as our reconciled Father and satisfied Judge. We are no longer estranged. We feel this change in ourselves the more we are Christians and live out verse 23. But this is not nearly as important as our change of standing before God. Objectively true, sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ and his ongoing intercession in heaven, we are not driven away from the Garden in wrath but warmly invited to draw near with the confidence of blood-washed children. It is the most important thing that can ever happen to us as sinners – to be readmitted peaceably to God, to have a right standing with him.

Our Threefold State of Reconciliation

Three words describe this state of reconciliation. Together they give a full picture and reveal the divine side of reconciliation. However important it may be that we feel right about God, it is far more important and personally transforming that he is at peace with us. The first word is holy, which means that by the “body of Christ’s flesh” we are now set apart to God. We are removed from the realm of filth, darkness, and death and stand in the position of purity, light, and life. The second word “blameless” carries the idea of spotless – like the lambs offered to God under the older covenant. In Christ, we have no spots, for all our guilty spots were laid upon him to suffer their punishment. All our filthy works that so corrupted our souls, the Lord Jesus took them upon himself – all our impure thoughts and desires and actions, our lies and self-seeking, our idols of self and man-pleasing, he erased those spots with his blood. The blood of Jesus Christ is the only cleanser of sin’s spots. Believing in him, we are left with no charges to answer.

It is the most shocking description of our standing before God, for the redeemed soul can scarcely feel the wonder of it. Without any charge? Completely righteous? We have nothing to answer for before the face of God? What about my cold heart? What about my lies? What about the fact that I do not want to please God, do not love him with all my heart, can sometimes barely open my mouth in prayer and praise? Blameless. Look to Jesus Christ. He suffered, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Our crimes have been laid upon him, and he paid for each one fully. Look to him and draw near to God not as a guilty, groveling criminal but as a cleansed, righteous child of God. Reconciliation is almost too good to be true. It is too precious to hear of it and not believe immediately in Jesus Christ, and give ourselves without any reserve to his praise and service and friendship of our Savior.

The Way We Live Reconciled to God (v. 23)

Take Seriously the Warning of “If”

But why the “if?” We forget glory and neglect God’s grace. Presumption lulls us to sleep and doubt robs us of peace. The “if” does not mean we accomplish or complete reconciliation. It is accomplished by God’s grace and power through Jesus Christ. The “if” warns us not to turn from Jesus Christ. Some in Colosse were – intellectualism, angelology, and asceticism were all fighting against the gospel of Christ. His reconciling death must never be modified or abandoned. He is the only one who presents us to God without spot or blame. We need these warnings. Our day has its blaring sirens to lead us away from Jesus Christ – the idolization of the individual’s will and preferences, the hatred of non-therapeutic preaching as too authoritarian, and the constant distraction of life which leads to the trivialization of being reconciled with God. To overcome the world, we must constantly remember, constantly preach the gospel to ourselves and place ourselves under its preaching.  We must hear “if.”

Faith Stable only in Christ

For peace with God and God at peace with us are found only in Jesus Christ. This is the reason we must be built upon him – he is the only foundation of peace. He is our peace (Eph. 2:14), his person and work, his suffering, mediation, and intercession for us at the Father’s right hand. We must therefore be settled in him, immovable. Confess your inability to save yourself and commit yourself fully to the reconciling work of Jesus Christ. Any gospel that focuses only upon your personal peace God and earthly prosperity is a false gospel that will move you away from Christ. We must not move one inch from Christ and his saving work. This is the reason the true church had to leave Roman Catholicism – that false church had moved away from Christ. It happened again in the 20th century in Protestant denominations. The mainline churches moved away from Christ alone and embraced naturalism, evolutionary views of the world’s origin, polytheism and the legitimacy of other religions, while denying the cross and substitutionary atonement as the narrow way to heaven. The true church, true faith holds fast to Jesus Christ alone. Do so now. Not works, feelings, rituals, nothing but Jesus Christ will reconcile you to God. Only he makes you to stand before God holy, without spot, without any charge.

Unmoved from the Hope of the Gospel

Notice the very practical blessing of holding fast to Jesus Christ – hope. Is there a more missing virtue and grace in modern society? Hopelessness has almost become a badge of honor among the living dead – we will do it our way, come what may, with no real hope of success, but better than not being true to oneself. No wonder the thoughts of ending one’s own life have never been more common in our nation’s history. We cannot live without hope. But where is hope? Not in our leaders, our economy, our national identity and destiny, or even our families and careers. These are all too frail to give us hope. True hope is confident expectation of God’s favor, based upon his promises, and therefore confidence facing the future. We have this hope in Jesus Christ. It is a most remarkable thing, hope. We are saved by it (Rom. 8:24). Joseph was in Egypt; Daniel also in Babylon. Hannah was saved in hope and endured by it – confident in the goodness and promises of the Lord. Our Lord was born in hope (Ps. 22:9). He trusted his Father, and he was mocked for his hope (Matt. 27:43). But with hope, we can endure all things patiently. Why is the gospel connected to hope? We are reconciled to God. In fellowship with him, we can endure all life’s trials. Since he is at peace with us, we can receive Satan’s full battery of assaults with a calm heart. My God is reconciled. I am pardoned. Do your worst. The Lord of hosts is on my side. How do we know? We look at the cross.

One and the Same Gospel for Everyone

This is the gospel – not “restore the Roman republic” or “save Jerusalem from the Romans.” The Lord sent out his apostles with a gospel of hope through the reconciling blood of Jesus Christ. It was preached to every creature under heaven – everyone heard the same gospel. The apostles did not try to find their differentiating niches to gain personal followers and sell advertisements and products. They preached and served the gospel. The preaching of the cross is God’s power unto salvation. We enter this great work in our day by not jumping upon every social issue bandwagon and lining up beyond our favorite oracles but by holding fast to Jesus Christ and speaking this same gospel of hope. Let him do the saving and reconciling. Faith is not our responsibility; proclamation is. Announcement of a reconciled God through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is our message. Speak it everywhere. Be ambassadors for Christ and invite the world to be reconciled to him through the blood of his cross.

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