Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Gospel Message of Reconciliation

Over twenty-three years ago; after several years of personal reflection and study – I made a commitment for Christ. From my studies, journaling and self-reflection; and my experience with people – I knew that I was not signing up for something that was going to be easy street – it would not be roses and candy every day. However, I was confident that it was the right thing to do – to trust God in Christ and walk this thing out over the course of my life.

Today; over twenty-three years later – I am even more confident that it is the right thing to do.

To summarize what I have learned, lived and experienced – here is the Salvation Process in order:

Justification – this happens at the moment when; with sincerity and from the heart – you place your trust in Christ. It can happen anywhere and at any earthly time. You do not necessarily need to be in a church or watching a televangelist. My moment happened during a drive on Interstate 10 West heading toward Los Angeles more than 23 year ago. After several years of study; about my life and my world – and several years of personal reflection and prayer – I came to not only an emotional decision; but one rationally based on tremendous evidence within our universe and our history – that the Gospel Message of Christ is true.

That was my moment of Salvation – when I accepted that Jesus took my place and through his substitute for all of my sins – past, present and future – I was now justified before God.

Sanctification – As the bumper sticker says, “Christians are not perfect – Just forgiven”. Well I realize that sounds a bit cliché-ic; but there is truth in it. From the moment we are saved and justified before God; we do not lose our imperfections. We are still living out our lives in an imperfect body, with an imperfect mind, imperfect thoughts and in an imperfect world.

The great news is – from that moment forward; we can count on God’s word and his Holy Spirit (what the Bible refers to as The Helper); to help, guide and convict us.

To summarize it – Sanctification is a lifelong process of becoming more and more like Christ – that is “Being Reconciled to God in Christ”. Our life is full of both good times and struggles. Our faith, our patience and our endurance will face trials and challenges – we will be tested.

James 1:2-4
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Glorification - The third stage in the plan of salvation is our glorification. We won’t be glorified until after Jesus returns. John writes of this in his first letter when he states that “when he shall appear we shall be like him (1 John 3:2). Paul refers to this stage frequently. For example: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption and this mortal must put on immortality (1 Corinthians 15:53). He also refers to a time when “we shall all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52). Paul speaks further of the doctrine of glorification when he says in Romans 8:18, “For the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” We get glorified bodies and a new name. Feasting with Jesus. Receiving eternal life and being with Him wherever he goes.

That being said – I have struggled over the years to try and find a way or a resource that would help me explain to Christians, non-believers and even skeptics – what my current world and in part – this process looks like from the perspective of someone like me. I am not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but understand the truths of scripture and the Gospel. It can often be hard to communicate with folks; as I have such a burning desire to share it; but know at the same time that it is a mystery that evades many.

Here is something totally awesome I found this week!

The Message of Reconciliation – by the Apostle Paul Found in Second Corinthians Chapter 5

The description of the ministry sustained by Paul touched on the work of Christ (2:12-3:6), the work of the Spirit (3:7-8), and the work of the Father (4:1-15). He also spoke of the eternal viewpoint required for the ministry to be carried out effectively (4:16-5:10). He now turned to the heart of that ministry, its message.

Verses 5:11-12
Though Paul knew that his salvation and eternal destiny were obtained by faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9), the thought of one day standing before his Savior (2 Cor. 5:10) had him in awe. It was the contemplation of that moment that moved Paul to fear the Lord and compelled him in His service (see Matt. 10:28), the purpose of his ministry was to persuade men to “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20).

The personal defense which follows (vv. 11-12) indicates that Paul met opposition in carrying out that commission. Understandably, the Christians message is intimately bound up with his life and ministry; the two are hardly separable. Since this is so, Paul had to justify and defend his conduct in order to win a hearing for his message. He followed the tactic used earlier in the letter, affirming before God the sincerity of his motives (cf. @ Cor. 1:12, 23) and calling on the Corinthians to confirm this by their own experiences with him (cf. 1:14, 4:2).

The apostle, unlike his opponents, put no stock in external credentials or associations (3:1-2; cf. Rom. 2:28-29). Nor was he concerned simply about his own reputation among the Corinthians (cf. 1 Cor. 3:21: Gal. 1:10, 1 Thes. 2:6). What did concern him was the reputation of his message. He needed to be regarded as a servant of Christ so that his message would be regarded as the message of God (cf. 1 Cor. 4:1). If they took pride (“exulted”) in him, the messenger, then they could answer his and their opponents, who looked on the outward appearance (what is seen) rather than what one is like inwardly (in the heart; cf. 1 Sam. 16:7).

Vs. 5:13 - to affirm his sincerity, Paul was willing to be thought of as a fool (cf. 11:16-17, 21). Who but one out of his mind (“insane”; cf. 11:23 & Mark 3:21) would show disregard for himself? Would a sane person be willingly face a riotous mob intent on destroying him? (Acts 19:30; 21:35 – 40). Who would be crazy enough to walk back into a city in which he had just been stoned and dragged out? (Acts 14:19 – 20). Only a person who was utterly devoted to God would show so little regard for himself. Such a man was Paul.

Yet the Corinthians also knew well the prosaic, “sane” side of Paul the teacher (Acts 18:11) and loving father (1 Corinthians 4:14 – 16). Whether they consider him insane or not, his ministry was selfless: it is for you. In his own way, Paul had expressed the summation of the law, loving God with all his heart, soul, and mind, and loving his neighbor as himself (Mark 12:26 – 31).

Verses 5:14 – 15. Why would Paul live that way? Because Christ had lived that way (cf. Mark 3:21). Though possessing divine prerogatives, He willingly became incarnate and followed the path of obedience to the cross (Philippians 2:6 – 8), dying for all (not just the elect, as some suggested; cf. 1Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 2:9; 1 John 2:2). By faith Paul was identified with Jesus in his death and resurrection (Romans 6:3 – four; Galatians 2:20). And Paul lived with the same selfless abandon that our Lord had.

Christ’s love, which had converted him, now compelled him (cf. 1 John 3:16).

Later in discussing “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18 – 19), Paul developed the historical and objective implications of Christ’s atonement. His concern in those verses was the subjective application of the Savior’s objective work. All those who by faith entered into the benefits of Christ’s sacrifice (and now live spiritually) should respond by living selflessly and being involved in that ministry of reconciliation. They should no longer live for themselves but for Him. Paul was certainly doing this; therefore the Corinthians should exult in him (V. 12).

Vs. 5:16 - As a result of his conversion Paul no longer evaluated people on the basis of externals. He implied that his opponents, and to a certain extent those influenced by them, did evaluate people on the basis of externals (V. 12).

At one time this had been true of Paul himself as well. He had opposed Christ and His followers (Acts 22:4 – 5; 1 Corinthians 15:9) because he had regarded Christ (literally “knew Christ”) from a worldly or “according to the flesh” (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:12) point of view. He had information about Jesus, but this was not the same as believing in Jesus. Mere information about Jesus cannot transform a person from self-centeredness to selflessness (5:15).

Only conversion could affect that, as it had done for Paul (Acts 9:1– 20).


These notes that I found in the Bible Knowledge Commentaries are as close an accurate summary of my experience and my personal understanding of how Salvation and faith in Christ works.

Whether you are a believer in Christ, a nonbeliever or a skeptic; I hope the information that I have shared here will at least help you to understand how those of us who call ourselves Christians are able to accept that we are not perfect, but we are saved. By faith, and with a sincere heart, we have given our lives to God in Christ; trusting in Him no matter what. We fully understand that we are not perfect. At the same time because of our sincere faith, our conversion and our deep study of God’s Holy Scriptures - we have a worldview that is different from others.

While I am saved and justified by Christ, I will remain imperfect as the sanctification process continues. Not until glorification comes; the return of Christ, well I find myself perfect and whole again. However, until that day - though he may slay me I will trust in Him and worship Him! Job 13:15

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