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 (1636-1674)
Jesus came at his first advent to reconcile us to the Father, an impossible task if his goal were simply to convince God how good humans are. Jesus knew that was not possible, because he himself knew the hearts of men and women (John 2:24-25). We are irredeemable based on our actions, thoughts, hopes, aspirations, best-laid plans, or by any other human means. 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).
Sin will always be sinful. 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 is my Advent assignment for you this year (Advent begins Nov. 29). I challenge you to take twenty 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?
- Recognizing this, how will I respond from this day forward?
My friends, we must all put aside any thought that tells us we are worthy or special outside of Christ. You are not, and neither am I. This is unwelcome news for people in our culture who are constantly being told how unique and good-natured 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 interesting thing: you will find that you have no desire to rejoice in yourself because you will know that everything was done for you, not by you. You will rejoice in God, the one in whom you should be rejoicing.
Believers celebrate Christmas for this very purpose. Jesus came to save us from ourselves. I for one am eternally grateful that he did. If you also are a sinner saved by the grace and mercy of God, I am willing to bet that you are too.
John Newton (the former slave-ship captain and notorious sinner who converted to Christ during a great storm at sea, and who subsequently preached the gospel and wrote hymns, like the now famous “Amazing Grace”) understood life in this simple fashion. “I know two things – I am a great sinner, and Christ is a great Savior.” Simple wisdom from a man who had seen life from both perspectives.
Grace and peace,