Love can forbear, and love can forgive...but love can never be reconciled to an unlovely object. God can never therefore be reconciled to your sin, because sin itself is incapable of being altered; but he may be reconciled to your person, because that may be restored. - Thomas Traherne
I know two things - I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior.
- John Newton
Jesus' first Advent brought us the hope of reconciliation with God. It would have been an impossible task if his goal was to convince the Father how good humans are. Jesus knew that was not possible, because he himself knew the hearts of men and women (John 2:25). We are irredeemable based on our actions, thoughts, hopes, aspirations, best laid plans, or by any other human mechanism. The Bible is abundantly clear on this principle. We cannot save ourselves, nor can we convince God to save us by appealing to our own natures. We may clean ourselves up as much as we like, but we still fall far short. Some may do better than others and appear more worthy from a human perspective, but like two people trying to throw a rock across the Atlantic, although one may outdistance the other, both will ultimately be unsuccessful at the task (Isa. 64:6; Rom. 7:14-15; Titus 3:5). The great missionary Hudson Taylor was right: "We cannot be our own savior, either in part or in whole."
Sin will always be sin. The Scriptures confirm that God in his holiness will not abide with sin - it is impossible. Every human-born religion that tells us that salvation is achievable by human effort is -ispso facto- false from a biblical standpoint. So where does that leave us? It leaves us desperately in need of a Savior. So here's my Advent assignment for you. I challenge you to take fifteen minutes, read Ephesians chapter two slowly for comprehension, and then ask yourself these questions:
- Before I knew Christ, who was I, and who did I follow (even if I didn't know it at the time)?
- What did God think of me then?
- What did God do for me? Why?
- What did my own actions have to do with any of this?
- What hope did I have before God extended grace to me?
- What was God's purpose in all of this?
- What is the result of God's action in my life?
My friends, we must all lay aside any notion that leads us to believe we are worthy or special outside of Christ. You are not, and neither am I. This is difficult information to process for us in our culture who are constantly being told how unique and good we are. Jesus came to reconcile us to the Father because we need reconciliation. Now, have you been reconciled to the Father through faith in Jesus Christ? (Rom. 5:10) If your answer is "yes," then and only then may you rejoice in your newfound relationship with God. Now you are a child of God, and you may rejoice in who you are in Christ (John 1:11-13). And here is the irony; you will find you have no desire to rejoice in yourself because you will know you did nothing. You will find yourself rejoicing in God and his mercy, the very things you should be rejoicing in. If your answer is "no" or "I don't know," now is the time to be clear about this. Call on the name of Jesus and respond as the people of the apostle Peter's day did when he told them, "Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus..." (Acts 3:19).
Christmas exists for this very purpose. Jesus came to save us from ourselves,and I for one am eternally grateful that he did.
Grace and peace,