Selfless Reconciliation

Who are you? Who, who, who who? Who are you? Who, who, who who?1 You don’t have to have been around in 1978 to be familiar with these classic rock lyrics and the tune that etched them onto our long-term memory banks. Thanks to the band, The Who (who else?!?), millions of people have rhythmically asked billions of times: “Who are you?” Now, we can remain in the same rhetorical refrain for another 40 years if we wish—content to question identity and purpose—or we can flourish in the answer. For the apostle Paul shows us that, for anyone who is in Christ, there clearly is an answer.

Well, who are you?1 You are new—your sin defines you no longer! “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”2 We shrug off our shame once and for all and live this life in freedom!

I really wanna know.1 You are reconciled to God—completely forgiven and entirely restored to peace in His presence. “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ … not counting [people’s] sins against them.”3 We cease our striving; we rest in renewed relationship.

Tell me, who are you?1 You are the righteousness of God. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”4 Jesus, who knew no sin, took upon Himself our sin, which we could not bear; then uniting us with Himself and living in us, He gave us His righteousness, which we could not earn. (Martin Luther called this “the great exchange.”) We humble ourselves in awe before such an indescribable gift and such a selfless Giver.

‘Cause I really wanna know.1 You are an ambassador, for God reaches people through people. “And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”5 And here is our message to millions who “really wanna know”—through faith in Christ, you, too, can be new, reconciled and, yes, righteous through the selfless grace of God.

Who’s next?

Father, I cannot begin to imagine the depth of your love or the cost of my reconciliation. Grace me to flourish in your forgiveness and to be a selfless ambassador of your truth and grace. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is peace.

1 Townshend, Peter. (1978). Who Are You [Lyrics]. Retrieved from https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/who/whoareyou.htm
2 2 Corinthians 5:17
3 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19a
4 3 Corinthians 5:21
5 2 Corinthians 5:19b, 20

See today’s Scripture in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.

Selfless Love

“Permission to speak candidly?” For years, Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” felt like an obligation to me; the gospel was a heavy load I’d rather keep bundled on my back than to unpack and share. For one thing, telling others what I’d found in Jesus would make me stand out when what I really wanted was to fit in. And to be perfectly honest, though I had come to trust that Jesus had paid the price of my sins and granted me salvation in His name, there remained enough debilitating doubt to muzzle my message. How frustrating!

Seemingly “out of the blue one day,” I decided to begin to read Scripture daily and to journal whatever response it was stirring within me. Mulling things over at the pace of my pen slowed me down and delved me deeper into the riches of God’s truth. He showed up without fail, His Spirit speaking through His word to teach me new things and, in the process, to show me His intimate love. My soul flooded with hope, my spirit streamed in joy, and I began to open myself up completely to Him, the content of my heart pouring out in torrents of blue gel ink onto dry beds of yellow-lined paper. The more I realized God’s love for me, the more freely it burst inner dams of doubt, flowing now to others through witnessing words and compassionate care.

Love begins with God. “This is love,” taught the apostle John, “not that we loved him, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”1 When we acknowledge that Jesus is God’s Son, “God lives in [us] and [we] in God,”2 and so, “In this way, love is made complete among us.”3We love because he first loved us.”4

What then does God’s love in us look like? Action, it looks like action. “Freely you have received; freely give,”5 said Jesus to His disciples. “Forgive as the Lord forgives you,” wrote Paul to early believers. And as God’s love pours out in compassion, we too “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”6

God never meant for us to share Him in our own power, for we are neither able nor inclined. Instead, “We know and rely on the love God has for us.”7 For His selfless love is uncontainable; it overflows our hearts in words of life and acts of care.

Father, you are love. Open my heart to your love; may your love for me overflow in my love for others. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is love.

1 1 John 4:10
2 1 John 4:15
3 1 John 4:12
4 1 John 4:19
5 Matthew 10:8
6 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
7 1 John 4:16

Read John’s live-breathing lesson on love in 1 John 4:10-19.

Selfless Restoration

During my college years I would occasionally pick up some spending money working for a dealer in European antiques. Most of my duties entailed delivering high-valued pieces to well-healed clients, and occasionally I would do whatever chores needed to be done around the store. One day, I noticed on the workbench several small, brass boxes buried amid the clutter. Embossed on their lids was a portrait of a woman and the decorative patterns that encircled her profile; though dulled by years of neglect, these artifacts were nonetheless compelling. The shop owner explained to me that these were cigarette boxes Princess Mary had given to British troops at Christmastime 1914, the first year of “the Great War.” Hers was the portrait that adorned the lids amid their ornate designs.

“If I clean all of these up, may I buy one?” I asked the owner. He agreed, so I went to work, removing tarnish from brass, including the green patina burrowed deep into the crevices of each relief, until every piece came alive again, restored to its former splendor. So stunning was the transformation that the owner would gift these formerly forgotten relics to his most elite clients—all, that is, except the one antique box my mother opened that Christmas morning.

As beautiful as these polished pieces emerged from their cleansing, we are restored to God in infinitely greater brilliance and immeasurably higher value. The apostle Paul tells us that God “has reconciled [us] by Christ’s physical body through death to present [us] holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation …”1 Holy, without blemish, and free—stop and soak this in, for it is who we are, and it is who we are becoming, for “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things … by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”2 Then more majestic than the likeness of any earthly sovereign, the image eternally embossed on us is that of Christ, who is “the image of the invisible God,”3 for we are “being transformed into [the Lord’s] likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord.”4

So what remains for us but to carry “the message of reconciliation”5 God has committed to us? For just as God, in Christ, has removed the tarnish from our souls, so also does He long to restore everyone to His image in ever-increasing glory and brilliance. May no one be lost amid the clutter.

Father, you have reconciled me to yourself; how can I ever thank you enough? Use me to bring the hope of reconciliation to others, so that precious, living treasures would be rescued from amid the clutter of this world and restored to splendor in the image of your Son. In Jesus I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is peace.

1 Colossians 1:22
2 Colossians 1:19, 20
3 Colossians 1:15
4 2 Corinthians 3:1
5 2 Corinthians 5:19

Read today’s Scripture in Colossians 1:15-23.