THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION: RESTORING RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD (1)
God’s great desire is to be reconciled with everyone. He has already done everything He possibly can do on His part to achieve this and has made it as easy as possible for us.
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation… [2Corinthians 5:18]
WHERE AM I?
Many people grow up perceiving the world at large as a great unknown and somewhat of a mystery. We don’t necessarily see our own immediate surroundings that way, however. From the beginning of awareness at a very tender age we are presented with a family structure we must live within. This structure, whatever it may be, wherever we may live, contains certain expectations we must adhere to even though much within our young lives is granted as a gift, though we do not initially recognize it as such. We are not aware of the great effort it took to bring us into this world or the extreme care and expense required immediately afterward. We have no knowledge or memory or those early months when we were completely helpless and dependent on 24 hour-a-day attention and devotion prior to our later conscious understanding. We simply have no conception of the meaning of love at that time.
When we do begin becoming aware of our surroundings and are able to make cognitive connections we only know of our limited direct environment and this is usually filled to overflowing. We become as thirsty sponges taking it all in. There is so much to know and learn. We must develop as little humans and it is a fulltime endeavor. We continue to major on receiving and expect that our needs will always be met. Some children, of course, are not so fortunate to be blessed with the level of stability and protective environment necessary for proper development in the first years of life, but development continues onward anyway. Time waits for no one. Growth proceeds ready or not.
Regardless of parental love for children, and most parents are very good in this regard, they can only do so much. Most parents are limited. They are limited regarding what they would like to do for their children compared to what they can do. They are not necessarily limited in love and may attempt to love all the more to make up for perceived deficiencies. It must be understood, though, that love comes in many forms and people express their love in different ways. Sometimes love is not appreciated because it is not acknowledged or understood. Sometimes parents go way out of their way to get their children the best life possible according to their conception of whatever that may be but it is not appreciated. And it is sometimes the case that children of poor parents remain well adjusted in life despite not having much at all growing up. There are several reasons for such outcomes and it can be complicated, but maybe the common denominator is whether or not one understands loving intentions.
And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” [Luke 18:15-17]
Children are close to God. They may not understand this but it is true. We know it is true because the great separator of people from God is personal sin. Young children have no sin. Regardless of their actions that sometimes do not reveal them as saintly, they are simply not accountable for their actions. For the most part they are innocent, open, and kindhearted. They also have greater perception of heavenly things. They are not weighed down by sin. Because of their lack of sin they remain in close contact with God even though there may not be any overt communication on their part. Yet, God does communicate with children, though on a level they can understand and through a means they can receive.
But the inevitable always happens. The children grow older and begin to sin willingly. At first their conscience may bother them terribly and they will respond with fear. In other words they know whatever sinful actions they engage in are wrong. They are able to know right from wrong. In much the same way God has created the means and ability for incredibly complex language skills that come forth almost automatically in a relatively very short period of time, so has He blessed each person with a working conscience. This functions as an automatic right/wrong indicator. It allows a young growing child to know what bad behavior is and to steer clear of it. Parental and societal rules certainly play a part in this and there is also a certain level of fear of both when rule-breaking is involved. Nonetheless, once a child even thinks about engaging in sin his or her conscience kicks in and red lights starts flashing. What else can this be but a built-in warning system placed there by the Creator?
Eventually, of course, the warning system will be bypassed. It only has the ability to warn but never stop one from acting on sinful desires. And though it will continue to work as designed it becomes less effective the more it is overridden. There is a long-term danger here, however. A person can neglect and reject the warnings of the conscience to the point that it actually will effectively stop working in the sense that it can be so tuned out its warnings do not register. This means a person will no longer have a working conscience. And this means he or she loses any and all conception of personal sin. Paul gives a good illustration of this in the following from his first letter to Timothy: …by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron…
Most people may never arrive at that place but learn to deal with their conscience differently. The red light warnings may simply be overridden by a competing set of rules which justify sin. You see, the human conscience is programmed according to God’s definition of sin and no other. This is the default position. Sin is what God says it is and the conscience will always warn on that basis. However, if one adopts a different set of moral rules (or decides on no rules whatsoever) that conflict with the default, one can eventually override the default in the same way one can destroy his or her conscience by repeatedly rejecting the warnings. This is in part why so many people are able to sin without remorse and remain for all intents and purposes contributing members of society. They teach themselves how not to be bothered by their sin by simply convincing themselves it is not sin. They allow their desires to define good and bad behavior. As Eve did, on that terrible day in the Garden, people choose to imbibe and fulfill the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life rather than resist such soul-shattering temptations. This is why and how everyone eventually falls out of contact with God. Their willing personal sin destroys the lines of communication with Him. The contact they had with God when they were small children, innocent and pure, becomes lost. When communication is lost, the relationship is lost.
LOST IN A LOST WORLD
When the majority is lost it appears on the surface to not be lost at all. This is because sinful people usually invoke the tenet of majority rule with regard to moral standards. This social majority rule ideology simply means that whatever the majority within a culture decides is morally right is what is right. The majority sets the standard. Such standards vary by majorities which can be relatively small or composed of millions. If the majority does not convict a person for some personal sin then that person makes peace with such sin. It is as if there is no law against it. He or she may know on some level it is wrong but because no one in his or her sphere of influence holds him or her accountable, one effectively gets away with it so to speak. If everyone one hangs around with thinks the same and engages in the same sinful practices then sin as sin disappears. It becomes nothing more than what everyone else partakes of and is commonplace. Rather than there being any bulwark against it there is instead the cultural acceptance of it. Of course, sin is still there, behind the scenes as it were, destroying and eating away at the good. It is surely progressive but often works relatively slowly and the damage being inflicted does not register. Such will certainly register eventually, however, and show up in a form that appears to have a different source.
Majority rule regarding moral standards rather than God’s law is why some cultures fall to the point of adopting particular sinful activity as a vital component of their culture. When the majority accepts it, engages in it, and even honors it, it becomes part of a traditional belief system. We can think of the worst and most heinous examples of such cultures, such as those which are cannibalistic or those which practice infanticide. World history reveals many such cultures dating from ancient times. Historical accounts in the Bible give us several examples as well. Such heinous sins also exist in the present within so-called higher cultures.
But not all of these are so egregious on the surface. There are some cultures within an outer culture that engage in truly disgusting and vile sinful practices but keep it fairly well hidden. These have an outer cloak of respectability. The general rule of thumb, therefore, is to watch out for those who love to dress up in overtly “respectful clothing.” Such people must forever put forth the effort to hide what they really are. They know people are surface oriented and are easily deceived by mere appearances. If one dresses right, looks right, and acts right, one will largely shield himself from further inspection. These people know the majority will essentially revere them as people they wish they could be and will try to live vicariously through them. It is why celebrity status works so well. It is why celebrities in any field not only capture the hearts of masses but also shield themselves from close inspection. They know that such easy to deceive people are obsessed with image and not reality, and that they perceive the image to be reality. Thus, for them, image is everything.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. [Matthew 23:27-28]
Did anyone other than the Lord know these outwardly righteous religious leaders were actually filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness? Had they fooled everyone else? Or did others know it as well but the Lord was the only one courageous enough to expose them? Why was everyone else so fearful? Have you ever noticed that regular people never came to the defense of the Pharisees?
Making peace with personal sin is not good and has an expiration date. Those who not only make peace with sin but insist they actually have no sin are another story altogether. If people ever figured out that such individuals are the opposite of what they claim to be and are just as sinful as anyone else, if not much more so, their entire lives would come crashing down. On the other hand, many people know they are sinners, wish they were not sinners, and have tried to stop sinning but to no avail. They do their best to cover it up and act like it isn’t there in order to get along in life and keep some semblance of respectability but remain blessed with a conscience in good working order. Still, without a cure what are they to do? We get an answer here:
He then addressed this parable to those who were convinced of their own righteousness and despised everyone else.
“Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” [Luke 18:9-14] 
© 2021 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. [To Be Continued]
 Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.
Posted on March 11, 2021, in Teaching and tagged Conscience, False Moral Codes, Lord Jesus, Mercy, Reconciliation, Relationship, Self-Righteous Pharisees, Sin, The Fallen World of Sinful Humanity, The Sacrifice Lamb. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.