A Ministry of Reconciliation

June 28, 2009
Pastor Sean Harris

Colossians 1:19-22
For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Please notice verse 19, for it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell. Once again we are reminded of the significance of the Deity of Christ. Paul wants to bring this to our attention one more time. The church of Colosse needs to be reminded that Christ, the body of Christ, the Man Christ Jesus has every ounce of Deity within Him. He is the walking, talking, breathing, living God. Why is this so important? Why must we put such emphasis on this? Salvation is in Him and Him alone, and you can’t make up your own “Him.” You cannot decide what attributes you would like Him to have. The Word of God has already made that clear. You can’t pick and choose your Jesus. Your Jesus has every ounce of Godhead in Him.

Colossians 2:9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.

Every ounce of the Godhead, everything that God the Father had, God the Son had—all of it. Paul is communicating that Jesus is completely God. Everything that God is, Jesus is. God is more than Jesus. God includes the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Jesus is only one aspect of God, but He is every bit God. You might be called upon to give an answer at any time, and when you are supposed to give an answer, you want to know how to give the right answer. How pitiful it is for you to say “let me get my preacher”. Every single Christian is called to be able to explain the Person and Work of Christ. Everyone should be able to do that. What a pitiful thing it is if the preaching ministry of the church doesn’t develop God’s people to be able to defend their faith. This is not a social gathering. This is a time of instruction. This is a time of development. This is a time of discipleship. Again and again, I am going to say this: You shouldn’t have to come out to a private class on a Monday night to grow in Christ. You ought to be able to grow in Christ through the preaching and teaching of His Word in Sunday school, Adult Bible Fellowship, Men’s Ministry, and other ministries. Everything that we do ought to be teaching you and encouraging you to grow in Christ. You say that the Father is God, but the Father is not the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is not the Son. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Father. But they are all God. You say I don’t understand that. Me neither. That is our premise. We just take the Word of God at face value. We just believe that all sixty-six books are divinely inspired and have been preserved by God for our edification. And we are not here to do anything other than present the truth.

1Timothy 2:5. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

There is only one mediator. The Godhead determined that the man Jesus, who would reconcile the world to God, would be God, sharing all the properties, characteristics, and prerogatives of God Himself. Of course, the movement of incarnation was that God took flesh, not a human became divine (New American Commentary). This is so important for you to understand. A church member sent me an email this week about how she was confronted by a Jehovah Witness and how she needed to be able to articulate her faith. I am telling you right now it is pitiful when a Jehovah Witness comes and knocks on your door, and you find yourself nervous and shaking in your boots and wishing you didn’t have to defend your faith. Something is wrong there. When a Mormon or a cultist knocks on your door, you ought to be able to say “Let me tell you something right now. I believe that Jesus is God and that He is the Son of God.” Just get to the heart of the matter right away. Cut them right off! It is pitiful that they are more articulate than we are. Those who have the truth are less articulate than those who are deceived. Something is significantly wrong there.

Colossians 1:20 And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

Peace. That means we were at war. You don’t go to having peace without having war. Everyone understands that. There was a war. God hates sin. There is a war against sin. There is a war against the unbeliever. There is a war against children of disobedience. We are going to talk about the wrath of God. He made peace through the blood that was shed on the cross. The consequence of disobedience is enmity or hostility between God and man. Last week, we had the privilege of dedicating a baby. There are many cute babies, but the reality is outside of Christ Jesus there is an enmity between that little innocent baby, from our perception, and a holy and righteous God. And that is why the ministry of reconciliation, the goal of the Gospel is to get that baby reconciled to God. If we are not committed to that, we might as well just be a club. You know we do some good deeds, we hang out a little bit, we fellowship a little bit, play softball, and have a cute little club. That is not why we are here.

Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

Let me tell you something, if you start a Gospel presentation out by letting that sinner know that they are an enemy of God, they might feel more of a need to repent. That is too confrontational, Pastor. Which is more confrontational—tell them the truth or let them die and go to Hell? Which is more loving? You see, if I understand that I am an enemy of God, there is a necessity to figure out that problem. I have got to figure out if I’m an enemy of God. I don’t like that idea; how do I fix that? That is when the soul winner can tell them about the Gospel. But if they don’t understand that their sin separates them from God, God hates that sin, and His wrath abides on that sin, then you are in no position to tell them about the awesome love of God. Verse 20 says that by him to reconcile… Reconcile is this incredible, awesome word that describes the restoration of a friendship. We love the idea of being reconciled. Husbands and wives, when you get into a little tiff, isn’t it awesome to be reconciled? When someone takes the spiritual leadership (and it should be the father, it should be the husband, but sometimes we are too weak to do that, so the wife steps up) and begins to iron through the difficulty and you get honest and transparent one with another, there is a little bit of repentance that goes on inside of that marriage. Then all of a sudden, the joy and love that was there prior to this alienation is now brought back together. That is reconciliation. And reconciliation is awesome in a marriage. Now, you think about two sinners being reconciled, how much more awesome is it to be reconciled to the God of the Universe, the Holy, Sovereign, Perfect God of the Universe. This message of reconciliation is awesome.

So what are the reasons unbelievers don’t think very much of Christ’s work of reconciliation? Why is it that the co-workers, neighbors, students at your college, and people that you associate with that are lost, don’t get excited about the reconciliation of God? Why isn’t that important to them? There are three reasons. Let’s look at them.

Number One: They honestly do not believe that there is a God. They have been duped into believing that evolution is a fact; they were once a blob or they came from a monkey, and there is nothing after death. So they live life with all they can for a few years, and they believe a lie that they are going to decompose in a pine box and that is it. And they love that lie because they love their immorality, and if you love your immorality, you don’t want any accountability. That is the fact.

Number Two: They don’t know that sin has alienated man from God. They believe that they are morally good people, and that as a general rule, God loves me. How in the world wouldn’t God love me? I help my neighbor, and I am a good person. And really, please don’t tell me that God doesn’t love me. You really don’t know me. Don’t judge. That is the world we are living in right now. That is the culture in which you are called to minister. We cannot go back to “Leave it to Beaver.” Those days are over with; we are not going back. We live in a post-modern world in which absolute truths are completely denied, and if we want to get outside of our bubble and start reaching people with the Gospel, we have got to know the people that we are going to encounter. When you engage these people, recognize that they don’t see themselves as alienated from God. They think only Hitler and a few other men like that are alienated from God. For the most part, they can justify their sin. That is exactly what South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford thought when he brought to our attention what happened with David. That was all justification. That is exactly what it was. If it was good enough for David, it was good enough for me. Don’t throw me out of office. God didn’t throw David out of office, so don’t throw me out. That is exactly what he was saying. By the way, he was a Republican so I am an equal opportunity preacher when it comes to that. It doesn’t matter whether you are Republican or a Democrat; you are both going to get it.

Number Three: Misperception. They can’t imagine that God sees them as an enemy; they underestimate God’s wrath. The entire world is in love with the love of God, and we should be in love with the love of God. But what makes the love of God so awesome? It’s the understanding that God is a vengeful, wrathful God Who sets that aside in His mercy and grace. That is what makes it so awesome. If there is no concern for punishment, mercy isn’t that big of a deal. There is no concern. But when all of a sudden, life is on the line and the consequences are over the top and you get mercy, then mercy is a big deal. All you have to do is think about your own life, either as a child or as a parent. When you see Dad explode over something and He sends you to your room, you know the consequences are going to be over the top. You know that you are going to get it. And then when Mom and Dad say I love you. That love is awesome, and that love is magnified. Because you understood that you deserved the punishment. You understood that you were dead to rights. You should have gotten the ticket. You know what I mean. There isn’t anyone that hasn’t sped. You’re driving down the road going way too fast; you know you are guilty there is no way around it. The speed limit is clearly posted. You looked at your speedometer a few minutes earlier. You know you were taking a chance. And you get pulled over. When you know that you are caught dead to rights, and you deserve the ticket but get some mercy, isn’t that mercy awesome?

In the Gospel presentation, you must first address the wrath of God against sinners. You are dead to rights. You deserve the wrath of God. You have to look at the wrath of God (John 3:36, Romans 1:18, Eph. 5:6, Col. 3:6).

Colossians 3:6 for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience.

If they don’t see themselves as a child of disobedience, the Gospel is meaningless to them. If they do not see themselves as alienated and an enemy of God, you don’t have good news for them. And so we have got to establish that first and foremost. Secondly, we need to show that outside of God, there are some irreconcilable differences. We have got to show them that there isn’t a Plan B or Plan C. There’s no way they can be morally pure enough. All have fallen short of the glory of God. All are sinners. I am a sinner. I am the chief of sinners. I lead the way in sinning. And then the mercy of God is magnified. Let me give you a word of caution, please. Do not attempt to defend the love of God by denying the wrath of God. Do not do that. When someone says to you, I do not understand how God can be a loving God and a wrathful God, don’t deny the wrath of God. Don’t try to minimize the wrath of God to magnify the love of God because you are doing just the opposite. When you communicate how holy God is, how just God is, how perfect God is, then that helps you to better understand His mercy and grace. Recognize that God’s wrath toward sinners magnifies His love, mercy, and grace when He extends reconciliation to sinners. Recognize that according to verse 21, before being born again, we were in fact alienated from Christ. Yes, even you. You were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works.

I want to pause for just a minute. I want you to think about the parable of the two sons. One son stays home. He is the good son; he doesn’t go out and spend all of the inheritance. The other guy goes out and lives it up. He gets way down in the pig pen of life and asks to be brought back. Now which son more clearly understood the love of the Father? It was the one who thought he wasn’t going to be reconciled, the one who thought that he was going to have to live in the pigpen. He couldn’t get over the fact that his father still loved him. Now don’t misunderstand. I am not encouraging you to run out there and sin. That is not what I am saying. I am saying let’s make sure that we clearly understand how much our sins offend the Holy and Righteous God. Let’s not bring God down to our level. Let’s not try to get God to understand us so He can justify us and wink at our sin. Let’s recognize that ungratefulness is a sin. Let’s recognize that a failure to be content is a sin. Let’s recognize that a failure to recognize God’s goodness is a sin. Let’s recognize that we still have a problem with sin. Self-righteousness kills the church. That is why Christ went after self-righteousness. Look at your Gospels and you see Him going after self-righteousness with a passion. Who gets called vipers? Who gets called snakes? The self-righteous do; the hypocrites do. It is those that recognize that they have a need for a Savior that embrace Christ. So that is our first step. The issue is with man, and most importantly the issue is in the mind. So let’s talk about this—enemies in your mind.

1. It all begins in the mind. You need to be concerned about your thought life. You need to be concerned about your attitude. It starts in your mind.

2. Sinners engage in evil deeds because they are hostile in their minds. That is why I need a new mind. I need a new heart. I need the stony heart removed, and I need fresh flesh put in. I need God to do an work on my whole body. That is exactly what Paul was talking about when he said he couldn’t wait to be delivered of this flesh.

3. Faulty thinking leads to faulty behavior. It starts in the mind. Counselors, this is so important for you to remember when you are dealing with someone. You have to address thinking in the campers. Get into their minds. It is easy to get them to conform to a known set of works. We have to get deeper than that. We have to get into their minds. What were you thinking? It is easy to tell Christians to dress this way, look this way, and walk this way; that is easy. Everyone can conform to a known set of standards. You have to peel that back and get inside the thinking process.

4. Every single thought needs to be taken captive to obey Christ. So let’s be really pointed one more time. Eight years ago: that is when the thought needed to be taken captive for South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. That is when he should have grabbed that very first immoral thought and said, “This thought will be taken captive right now. This thought is not okay. This thought is immoral. This thought is sinful. This thought must not go on.” Husbands, do you want to protect your marriages? I want to protect my marriage. I want to go the distance. Then keep a hold of your thought life. Do not allow your thought life to get out of control. When your thought life gets out of control, your behavior gets out of control. Everyone believes somehow that they are strong enough to have a thought life which is immoral but behavior which is moral. It never works that way. This governor attributes the entire affair to the first email. That is one of the problems of the 21st century. We are texting things and typing things that we would never ever say in person. Young people, do not allow yourself to type something or text something that you would not say in person. Do not allow yourself to go down that road because there is no end to it. Your morality is at stake. Eight years ago the affair began in a simple little email. And it started in his mind. Men, our relationship with ladies should be above reproach. Ladies, I know from a pastoral perspective sometimes you think that I am exceptionally short with my emails to you. I am going to tell you right now. That is an intentional decision on my behalf. I don’t ask you how your day went. I don’t ask you how you are doing because I am not to have that kind of relationship with you. Your husband is to have that kind of relationship with you. If I am responding to a lady in an email, they are going to get “just the facts, Ma’am”. I am not going to go any deeper, because I don’t want an email relationship with you. It is the reality. Who does Satan go after? He goes after leaders. He goes after Senior Pastors. Sure, you can email me and I will answer your question, but I should never type something that I am not more than willing to cc my wife on. Here, Sweetheart, read this email. There is something seriously wrong in your marriage if you have a private email account to which your wife does not have access. I know there are some guys that have to have some separate things like that because of the military. I’m not talking about National Security; I am talking about personal accounts. You have your work email and you have your little personal hotmail that no one knows about. There is something wrong that. Take that into captivity right now, Men.

Matthew 12:34-35 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

So the question is “How did the God-man Christ Jesus reconcile man to God? What did Christ do to reconcile you to God?” The Scripture is very clear on that. Look at Colossians 1:20 and 22. He tells us two key elements. Number 1, He shed His blood. The Bible makes it very clear that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. Every single lamb, goat, pigeon, and every single thing in the Old Testament that was shed blood was all picturing the Perfect Lamb of God Who would shed innocent blood. And Number 2, He died on that cross. Paul delivers a parallel dissertation on reconciliation to us. We will move through these Scriptures, and then we will wrap it up.

2 Corinthians 5:11 Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.

That is the issue right now. There is no fear of God in our country. The fear of God is gone. We are not concerned with our immorality. How in the world do you carry on an affair for eight long years and call yourself a Christian? Something is wrong there. Where is the fear of God? Where is the fear of God’s judgment on my life, on my ministry, on my office, and on my state? Where is the fear of God? It is gone in America. That is why there is such a need for pulpits that preach the Word of God, the Truth. I am not mad. I know sometimes it looks like I am mad, but I am honestly not angry. I am passionate about this Truth. I don’t know how to tell you with a million dollar smile on my face to guard your marriage. I can’t do that. Because when we are talking about adultery, when we are talking about destroying families, I feel like that needs a wake up message! I don’t know how to do it any other way. When Paul says, “We have fear of God” he is concerned that some day he is going to stand before a holy and righteous God and account for his life. Yes, his sins are forgiven. That is a true statement. But he still knows that he is going to account for his life, the choices he made, the priorities he had, and the sacrifices he made. He is going to account for that and so he says, we persuade men.

So let me just talk to the Anchorage counselors for a minute. When Monday afternoon comes and those campers come piling off the bus, that is your objective. You are there to persuade men and women. That is it. You are not there to entertain them. You are there to persuade them of the Truth. You want to passionately persuade them of the Truth. That is the goal. If I didn’t think that you were committed to that, I wouldn’t support your ministry. I wouldn’t love you guys the way I do. I am crazy about the Anchorage. I am crazy about the entire ministry because I believe that for 12 weeks during the summer, you are committed to persuading men and women, boys and girls of the Truth that Jesus Christ is Lord. And Berean Baptist Church is not going to partner with any one that isn’t committed to that.

2 Corinthians 5:14. For the love of Christ constraineth [controls] us; because we thus judge [conclude], that if one died for all, then were all dead: And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.

So you don’t live for yourself any more. You don’t live for your children. You don’t live for your wife. You live for Him and Him alone. You don’t live for the United States Army. You don’t live for the corporate dollar. You don’t live for the state. You live for Him and Him alone. He alone constrains you. He controls you. Every decision you make is based on what would the Lord have me do? You are not concerned with what you want to do in life. You are concerned with what He has for you to do. Not what college do I want to go to, but where does the Lord want me to go to college? Not what occupation do I want, but what occupation does He want me to have? Not what wife do I want to marry, but what wife does He want me to marry? Not who I want to date, but who does the Lord want me to date? God, please get a hold of every aspect of my life. Will that change you? Yes, it radically changed Paul. The Gospel is supposed to impact my current life so that I no longer live for myself. I live for Him Who died and reconciled me.

2 Corinthians 5:17-18 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given unto us the ministry of reconciliation.

Us: not the preacher, not the deacons, not the Sunday school teachers. Us, all of us, the entire body of Christ; we all have a ministry of reconciliation. The entire church has a ministry of reconciliation. Not only those who have the spiritual gift of evangelism. No, that is not what Paul said. Paul said every one has a ministry of reconciliation. In verse 19, notice that not only do we have a ministry of reconciliation, we have a word of reconciliation. Our message is one of reconciliation. Verse 20 says, we go forward with the message of be ye reconciled to God. Be restored. Our message is not to pray this prayer to avoid Hell. Our message is not an intellectual ascent to the existence of Christ. Our message is not bring your sins up to this bar and exchange it for a suit of asbestos. Our message is not a “health and wealth” Gospel. Maybe you don’t understand what I mean, so let me give you a similar illustration. What would you do about a guy who said, “Do you know what? I don’t want to be by myself when I’m old and gray, so I am going to go find me a wife? I’m tired of doing my own laundry and I would really like for someone to cook for me so I am going to go find me a wife.” What would you think about that? You would say that is ridiculous. That is not why you get married. You get married because you love someone and you adore them and you want to spend the rest of your life with them. Well, that is the Gospel message. The Gospel message is “it’s time to stop adoring yourself and start adoring the Creator God of the Universe.” The Gospel message is “now it’s time to start serving God and God alone.” We don’t come from a message to get out of Hell and go back to your own life living it any way you want. That is not our message. Our message is that it’s time to be reconciled to God. You have been living for yourself long enough. It is time to restore your relationship with God. And so our message of reconciliation comes from Acts 20 and 21: It is a message of repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Every single counselor has to talk about repentance. That is the true Gospel. That is the only Gospel. You cannot waver from that. That is the message that the Apostles gave, and we must continue to preach that message. God is not reconciling people unto Himself so that they don’t go to Hell. He is restoring them to a place of harmony and friendship with Himself so that they might glorify Him. He is restoring a people who are righteous and who are being made righteous by a sanctifying grace of God. That is why we are saved—to glorify His holy name. We do that through holy living. Let’s compare 2 Corinthians 2:21 to Colossians 1:22.

2 Corinthians 2:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Colossians 1:22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Why is reconciliation so important? Why isn’t justification enough? Why does He redeem us? Why does He do all that for us? So that He can present us holy, unblameable and unreproveable in His sight: The message is that He delivered you to the light. The message is you were a sinner, and He took the righteousness of the Son and put it on your account. The message is that you were enslaved, and He bought you off the block. The message is you were way out there, and He set you apart. The message is you were alienated from God, and He took that enmity. He got it out of the way and said “Let’s get the friendship back in place”. He is literally moving us back to a pre-Fall day. He wants to walk and talk with you in the cool of the Garden. He wants to have an intimate, personal, close relationship with you. He wants you to get up in the morning and start your devotion time saying “God, I just want to be close to You.” And He says, Not only have I justified you, not only have I redeemed you, not only have I delivered you out of darkness, but I have reconciled the harmony that is supposed to be there so that we can have a friendship. This is what you have going on. You have the judge of the county forgiving your debt and inviting you over to his house for a barbeque. And you say, Man, you are the judge that just forgave my sins. He says “yeah, not only am I going to forgive them, but come on over. Let’s grill some burgers together. Let’s sit by the patio and enjoy some fellowship together.” And God says “let’s get close and personal. I want you to know me. I don’t want you to be way out there in the distance. No, I am going to come in with you, sup with you, and be with you. I am going to fill you with my Spirit so that you can have a close and intimate relationship with the God of the Universe.” Now do you understand why it’s important to preach a ministry of reconciliation? Can you see how awesome that is?

So let’s wrap it up with what the application to God’s people in the 21st century is. We go with the message of reconciliation. No one has a message of reconciliation like we do. No one talks about the intimacy that the Word of God communicates. No one talks about being filled with the Spirit of God and having a close and personal relationship with the Creator God of the Universe. No one talks about that. Christianity is alone in that teaching. Christianity is alone in communicating that you can have a personal relationship with the Sovereign God of the Universe. Let’s take it really personal. How in the world could any of us not be reconciled one to another? How can it be that I enjoy reconciliation with God the Father, and you enjoy reconciliation with God the Father, but you and I can’t? How can that be? You are a new creature in Christ. I am a new creature in Christ. I have been reconciled. You have been reconciled. How in the world can you and I hold any animosity toward each other insomuch as we love the reconciliation that God the Father has done for us through Christ? Counselors, are you getting it? The children and the teenagers that you engage with need to be reconciled to someone. I promise you. If they are hurting, if they are distraught, if they are in rebellion, if they are having difficulties, there is someone to whom they need to be reconciled. Often it is going to be a mother or a father or the authority figure in their life. So once you get this reconciliation done, you have to start working that lateral reconciliation. Who do you need to forgive? Let’s make it really personal. How could a husband who loves Jesus and a wife who loves Jesus have irreconcilable differences between them? It should never happen. How in the world would a marriage end up in divorce if the father has been reconciled and the mother has been reconciled? How can that happen when they enjoy the reconciliation that the Father has provided? That should never ever happen in the body of Christ. And when two Christians are refusing to be reconciled, when two counselors are refusing to be reconciled, when two students are refusing to be reconciled, that is sin. Sin which must be confronted and dealt with through what: the power of the Gospel. The same Gospel that saves a soul from Hell is the same Gospel that has the power to reconcile two individuals who believe they have irreconcilable differences.

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