Home » Reconciliation
Category Archives: Reconciliation
“And I saw what looked like a sea of glass glowing with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and its image and over the number of its name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of God’s servant Moses and of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the nations.'” Revelation 15:2-3
Human minds will never more fully understand God’s justice than when we stand before Him in heaven. Then we will see Him face to face, even as He has always seen us [1 Corinthians 13:12]. Then we will know how all of His essence is one, even as He is also one [Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29]. Then we will see our finite existence from the perspective of a holy eternity.
God is just because all truth is His truth. And justice cannot operate without truth.
God is just because He is also good and loving and all-knowing and unchanging. He is just because He is also holy and sovereign and wise and all-powerful. He is just because He is also transcendent and everywhere-present and faithful and gracious and merciful. He is just because He is also self-existent and self-sufficient and eternal and infinite.
All of His character works together as one unit, rather than as separate entities. He is never more or less any of these qualities, just as none of these traits exists outside of His person. God is just, because that is who He is.
He is self-existent and self-sufficient, so His justice is not counseled by any created being.
He is unchanging and He is holy, so His justice never wavers to the left or to the right [Proverbs 4:27].
He is all-knowing and wise, so His justice has always faithfully extended grace.
He is all-powerful and sovereign, so His justice is precisely exacted.
But He is also good and merciful and loving and gracious, so He provided a substitution for the wages of our sins [Romans 5:8 & 6:23; 1 John 2:2]. A substitute to accept our condemnation so that, by His grace, we could be considered righteous [Romans 3:20-24, 5:9-11 & 8:1; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 2:8].
He is transcendent and yet everywhere present, so His justice is always objective while His grace and mercy are always faithfully at hand.
He is infinite, so His justice is not limited in any way. He is eternal, so His justice contains all of our finite existence, but will endure for all eternity.
God is just.
Have you ever found yourself questioning this truth? Do you know others who question God’s justice? Often this is because we don’t like that God’s justice means there is a right way and a wrong way. But as God said to Cain nearly 6,000 years ago, If you do what is right, will you not be accepted [Genesis 4:7]?
“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:6-8
God is good. And He is infinitely so. But what is that goodness? What does it consist of or pertain to? How and when does it manifest?
Many cultures have mythologies of gods that are sinister but powerful. The Greek and Roman pantheons were worse than the most corrupt human beings, acting selfishly in all their ways and disposed by whim to mistreat humans it suited their own immoral pleasures. Their character couldn’t have been further from the truth of who God is.
Good is the opposite of evil. God is not bad in anyway [Psalm 92:15]. He is morally upright, but more than that, He is generously kind and loving to all. His infinite goodness is the source of every blessing and joy, the source of our hope and the wellspring of His love and goodwill–mercy and grace–toward humankind.
He created for all our needs and faithfully provides for them, though we are unfaithful about cultivating our relationship with Him [Matthew 5:45] and though we fail to thank Him for His faithful beneficence.
He keeps His creation in motion, patiently waiting for more of mankind to turn and recognize Him as God [Genesis 8:22; 2 Peter 3:9].
He hears our prayers and provides us with His Spirit to overcome just as He did. Because He is good, we can have peace [John 16:33], joyful strength [Nehemiah 8:10], hope in Him [Isaiah 40:31] and contentment waiting for our heavenly home [Matthew 11:29 & 10:24]. Because He is good, He strengthens us in our present circumstances [1 Peter 5:10-11]. Because He is good, He made a way to reconcile with us so that we could spend eternity with Him [John 3:16].
But our present circumstances are exactly the rub for so many who choose to walk away from belief in God. They shake their fist at heaven and ask, If God is good, then why is there bad in the world?
God is infinitely good. But His adversary, the devil, is full of every kind of evil intent toward us. Satan is angry that he will never attain heaven and angry at human beings that we can be redeemed. And he does everything he can, in his limited power of deception, to keep as many of us from coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ [1 Peter 5:8].
God is infinitely good, but we, His Creation, are sinful and therefore predisposed to love self and thereby wrong others in pursuit of self [Matthew 7:12 & 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28 & 16:31].
As believers, we must realize that we were redeemed to be a light of God’s goodness to this world, just the way He intended us to be from the Creation [Matthew 5:14-16].
Does God’s goodness flow through your life to others? Do others understand that God is good because they see His good work in your life [1 Peter 2:12]?
“For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship–and this is what I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.” Acts 17:23-25
Born of a baby’s laugh and sustained by a child’s faith. When children stop believing in her existence, she begins to fade, until–wait, that’s Tinker Bell. Not God. God is self-sufficient. Unlike Peter Pan’s fairy, God exists whether people want to believe in Him or not.
And many do not want to believe in God, because they don’t want want to have to admit that they’ve been wrong–even though this truth would free them. And because they certainly don’t want to give up control of their lives–even though it would bring them great joy.
Our understanding of who God is and what He desires for each of us only serves to elevate us. Whether or not we take the time to get acquainted with or honor Him does not diminish His existence in any way. He is no less God. He has no less authority. He is no less holy and good just because someone refuses to acknowledge Him, or chooses turn away from Him, or decides to disobey Him.
For just as He is and has always been, God will always be. People, on the other hand, disappear in a heartbeat [Psalm 37:2, 90:5, 102:11 & 103:15; Isaiah 40:6; 1 Peter 1:24]. Unlike God, we have a beginning and an end. And in the short span we exist in between, we need things outside of ourselves to sustain our life.
Perhaps the one commonality that we have with God, in this sense, is that we exist whether others want to acknowledge us or not. This is the bit of eternity in each of our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11] that cries out against inhumanity. When people suffer at the hands of fellow human beings, when slavery is rampant and genocide looked on with indifference, the eternity God sowed in our hearts begs to be seen and heard. I am here whether you choose to recognize me or not.
In the story, when children stop believing in fairies, Tinker Bell fades away. Peter Pan encourages everyone to clap to show that they do believe, and she comes bounding back to uproarious applause. But just as being ignored does not erase my existence, so no amount of fame and ovation can sustain it. One day, my end will come.
And God will keep on keeping on, more constant than the North Star that He created. People can choose to disregard the evidence in the world and refute His Word, but that does not dethrone Him as Sovereign of all. We can’t ignore God into nothingness.
He doesn’t need us, but He loves us. And we need Him. As human beings, our greatest need is to recognize our sin and reconcile our hearts to God. Have you?
“Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” John 14:23-26
Jesus, the incarnate [meaning in the flesh] Son of God speaks to His disciples here, reminding them of His true three-in-one nature. He and Father God act in one accord. Those who obey Jesus, do so out of love for Him–a love which is reciprocated by God the Father and God the Son both. Both Father and Son together come to indwell the obedient believer. And God the Spirit–sent by the Father in the name of the Son–quickens our minds to remember Jesus’ words.
All three infinite persons of the Godhead work together in our finite heart–if we just live through faith.
The Holy Spirit is called the Parkletos here, or the Paraclete. A paraclete is someone who literally comes to stand alongside. The Greek word means Advocate though it is often translated Counselor, as in legal Counsel. But in the mind of the New Testament believer, the word carried a much broader term than defense lawyer. The Counselor was a Helper to those who were in trouble with the law.
It’s no coincidence that John calls the Holy Spirit the Advocate. Besides the Judeo-Roman implications of being in trouble with a court of law and the human difficulty with upholding the Law of Moses [aka the 10 Commandments, et al; Romans 8:3], we need a perfect mediator to make peace with God [Romans 5:1; 1 Timothy 2:5]–Jesus Christ and the Spirit sent in His name by God the Father.
If all this scriptural connectedness isn’t enough, we need an Advocate because Satan is the adversary. Literally–Satan means adversary. The enemy of God. And we also were God’s enemies before accepting Jesus as Lord of our lives [Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:12; Colossians 1:21; Titus 3:3].
Paul explained it like this. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out [Romans 7:18]. Everyone one of us is born with a sin nature that naturally rebels against God. We can either recognize this sinful nature and ask forgiveness [aka repent] or we can refuse God’s grace–Father, Son and Spirit–and continue to live the way that we see fit [aka keep rebelling].
Have you invited the Advocate to stand alongside you? Or do you still walk in the ways of the adversary?
“Therefore since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” Romans 5:1-2a
So many wish for peace on earth. And rightly so. Though human understanding of what this means and how it is accomplished is often far from God’s truth.
Does world peace mean no more war or even hostilities between bullies and their victims? Does it mean no more sadness, hunger, sickness and dying? Or does it mean just an internal state of being despite the external conditions? And is any of this really possible?
To find the true answer to peace on earth, we need to first understand why there isn’t peace here to begin with. In short, sin. Sin causes sadness, hunger, sickness, dying, hostilities, wars and the accompanying inner turmoil [Genesis 3:14-19]. If we could totally eradicate sin from the world, then we would have perfect peace.
And it is God’s will that we do return to the peace that He created us for. Right from the entrance of sin into the world, God set His plan of redemption in motion to restore peace among human beings and between humans and Himself [Genesis 3:15]. A plan that included coming to earth as a God-man in the form of the baby Jesus, living among us and dying both by and for our sins.
Jesus came to save the whole world through His death [John 3:16-17]. When He is Lord of our life and we grow more like Him, we learn to love one another as He loves us [Matthew 22:36-39; Mark 12:30-31]. As far as it depends on us, we live at peace with our fellow human beings [Romans 12:18].
More importantly, Jesus restored the peace between human beings and our Creator God. For where sin is, God cannot be also [Isaiah 59:2; Habakkuk 1:13; 1 John 1:5-7]. So before salvation we were God’s enemies [Romans 5:10 & 8:7; Colossians 1:21; James 4:4], and when by faith we accept Jesus’ forgiveness for our sins, it is Jesus’ righteousness that covers the sin in our lives so that we can be at eternal peace with God.
More than that, we look forward to the hope of eternal life. At that time, everyone who loves God and lives by His peace will inhabit the New Creation where peace on earth will finally be restored. No more sadness, sickness, war, death, inner struggles with sin or the like [Revelation 21:4].
As we sing our songs of peace, joy, love and hope this Christmas, understand what it all truly means. Understand that this is God’s will for your life and mine. Understand that we can begin to experience each of these virtues in some measure by God’s Spirit in our life in this world, and their perfect fullness in eternity to come.
Do you live the peace of Christ for all the earth to see God in you?
“Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book.” Revelation 21:7
It has been nearly 2,000 years since Jesus announced His soon-coming return through John’s revelation. And indeed, in God’s time, it is still soon. Just because lifetimes of finite men have worn down and passed away, does not mean that God–with whom a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day [2 Peter 3:8]–has not kept His promise to return soon.
The apostle Peter explains that this passage of earthly time as marked by man does not mean that God is slow about keeping His promise either. Rather, God is patient, not wanting any to perish, but all to choose to repent of their sins and thereby accept eternal life [2 Peter 3:9].
However, time is not the only thing that people misinterpret in this passage. Teron–translated here as keeps, as in obeys or observes–in the Greek renders keep intact, as in don’t take apart. And the words of the prophecy of this book–renders bibliou.
The Bible is so named, not because it is a unique name, but because it was the common Latin and Greek noun for book. Like Jesus’ name being as commonplace, as John Smith in America, and like His followers being known as those of the Way, commonplace nouns abound to refer to things that we know to be sacred and of eternal value. The emphasis in each of these is not in the noun, but in the definite article the. The Bible is the book of all books. Following Jesus is the only Way to reconcile with God. Jesus is not just a cry to a saving God, but He is the Lord who saves.
And extremely joyful will be the person who keeps the book of Revelation’s prophecies intact. An important caveat seeing as how the book was being circulated to the seven churches of Asia Minor, and portions of Revelation were written specifically to each one [Revelation 1:11].
More than that, it’s not just Revelation that we are to keep intact. In Hebrews 10:7, Jesus referred to an Old Testament scroll as a part of the Book in which He was written [Psalm 40:7]. The Book is the Bible. There is a great history, that is too lengthy to explore here, on the preservation and canonization of God’s Word into what we now know as the Holy Bible. It is worth studying and knowing though, because many people have questions about both the process and the end result.
The bottom line is that all of us are called to rightly preserve–to keep intact–God’s Word. Sadly, many choose not to learn what this even fully means, let alone to carry it out. And many others, preferring Satan’s lie that we can be our own god [Genesis 3:5; Isaiah 14:14] pick and choose what and how they want to believe from scripture, discarding the rest [2 Timothy 4:3].
But faith–without which we cannot please God [Hebrews 11:6]–comes out of hearing and the ability to truly hear comes only by the spoken word of Christ, usually translated, the Word of God [Romans 10:17].
Do you know God’s Word? Truly? Are you studying to show yourself approved [2 Timothy 2:15]? Will you be blessed for keeping the Word of Christ intact?
“One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, ‘Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.” Revelation 21:9-11
Recall that Revelation chapter 17 began this exact same way, one of the seven angels who held one of the bowls of God’s wrath at the very end and poured it out on all people, invited John to see an outtake from the overall End Times picture. In chapter 17, the Spirit takes John away to see what happened to Babylon–false religion personified as a woman [vs. 1-5]. Here in chapter 21, we see what becomes of those who hold firm to their faith in Jesus to the end–the bride of Christ.
Babylon meets her end in the desert [17:3], a dry and barren land despite her so called riches. But the bride of Christ descends from heaven, higher than the hilltop on which the earthly Jerusalem perched [Isaiah 10:32], higher than the mountaintops over which the floodwaters rose [Genesis 7:18-20], the most elevated position possible for this historical climax.
The Holy City is peopled by a royal priesthood, the chosen of God who themselves chose God, a holy nation [1 Peter 2:9] and carries the name the New Jerusalem.
First mentioned in Genesis 14:18, it was originally known as Salem where the priest Melchizedek collected the tithe from Abraham. Jerusalem was a Canaanite city conquered by the Israelites as they took the Promised Land [Joshua 10:1]. Jeru meant foundation or city and Salem comes from Shalem which was the name of a Canaanite god. The second part of the name, however, easily converted in Hebrew to Shalom meaning peace.
So then Jerusalem was the city/foundation of peace a double entendre for the city/foundation of the one true God [Romans 5:1-2; Ephesians 2:14-18]. An allusion not lost on the writer of Hebrews who spoke of a glorious city that the ancients looked forward to receiving by faith [Hebrews 11:10].
This heavenly Jerusalem will shine with the glory of God Himself. In fact, the Day 4 Creation–sun, moon and stars–will no longer be necessary for governing light and marking time. All of these earthly restraints will pass away [Revelation 22:5]. Imagine 24-7 not having any meaning! Because the earth will not exist to rotate a 24-hour day in its orbit around an equally non-existent sun. Mind blowing, right?
Equally thought stretching is the image of crystal clear jasper. Most types of jasper stone are variegated and opaque. This scripture mention invokes, in my mind, the sunniest kind of day where everything seems to be surrounded with halos of clearish rainbows. What do you imagine when you read this description? That’s the beauty of heaven. Our earthly minds can only begin to imagine a rough sketch of what it might be like. But the real thing will be beyond compare.
Is Jesus your foundation of peace with God? Will you see heaven one day?