Saturday, June 5, 2010

A Call to Pilgrimage

Last night I witnessed a conversation between Christians (dear brothers in Christ, I might add, who are remarkable men of God) about the giant “Not of this World” window stickers they have on their vehicles. For better or worse, the gentlemen have effectively branded themselves as Christians before the world. Or at least, before anyone with whom they share a fine Californian rush-hour.
The Bible has quite a bit to say about setting ourselves apart as Christians. (Reference the “Manifesto of the Kingdom” I paraphrased here.) As we are being saved, we begin to identify more and more with the Christ’s Kingdom, and less and less with any other dominion of men. We become “Partakers of the Divine Nature” (2 Pet 1.4). The love of Christ controls us, and we no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf (2 Cor 5.14-15).

Paul continues in 2nd Corinthians 5 to call us “new creatures,” by the reconciling work of God, who then gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Did you catch that? The very work He did for us is the same work He wants us to be about in His Kingdom. “Has has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ!” (2 Cor 5.19-20a.) But how is this possible? After all, there is none who does good (Ps 14.3), “Not even one.” A good question. One which--believe it or not--Paul anticipates. His answer? “As though God were entreating through us, we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor 5.20b).

Check out this word: “Reconciliation.” It’s the Greek word katallasso; from the root allasso: “change.” It’s the picture of the divine work of redemption which establishes a relationship between entities who were previously enemies. Every time katallasso is used in the epistles, God is always the subject while man is the object. Remember your 5th grade grammar? The direct object in a sentence can always be dropped, and the subject-verb clause can effectively stand alone. That means the sentence “God reconciles man” (which is the way it occurs in the Greek 100% of the time) can be reduced to, “God reconciles.” and still be true. The work of katallasso begins and ends with the God. It begins and ends at the cross.

It’s no wonder then that the very next words Paul writes are, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor 5.21) (*1). This is personal. I think sometimes we view Christ’s death as a historical or theological event, and forget that our own reconciliation to Yahweh was purchased by the blood of the spotless lamb (*2). (1 Pet 2.18-19) A Jars of Clay lyric captures the depravity of my heart:
"I look beyond the empty cross,
forgetting what my life has cost..."
Oh, that we would journey daily to the foot of the cross! That we would find our peace and our strength in the reconciliation He made for us at Golgotha. This is my prayer for myself and for every Kingdom citizen. A call to pilgrimage. Back to the birthplace of our salvation… For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be glory forever. Amen.

Footnotes:

*1 - Jumping back to the passage in 2 Peter I referenced earlier, we find a beautiful description of how righteousness actually looks, in a practical sense. (2 Pet 1.4-11)

*2 - Another blog I wrote around Easter explores this idea further.

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