But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us even, when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.
When God had every reason to condemn us – we were his enemies in our nature and our actions – instead He found every reason to save us. His forgiveness is not a mere ignoring of our sins, and He did not set aside judgment in our salvation, rather He rose, took on humanity, took on our temptations – without sin, and died on the cross in payment against His own righteousness. He could find no way to save us apart from making the payment for us Himself. That is what it means to be “rich in mercy” and to have “great love.” He loved us in spite of our sins and made us alive when we were dead in our trespasses – and He did this in the most difficult way imaginable, so as not to set aside His righteousness to even the slightest degree.
Our story, and the story of all humanity, was one of degeneration, a tale of going from bad to worse, until God stepped in. The once proud human race, highest of God’s creation on earth, fell from their position due to rebellious hearts – turning from life, love, and purpose to death, separation, and meaninglessness. Look at the planets in the heavens – there is nothing we know of that looks like earth, blue with water, teeming with life, but the core of meaningful life of its highest beings was cut out by rebellious hearts, subjecting all of creation to “frustration” (Romans 8:20-21).
“But God” – but He stepped up and stepped into our circumstance and redeemed us from sin and, by His grace, He “made us alive together with Christ.” Love, life, and purpose are now rediscovered in Christ. Here are the reasons we love God and love Christ, He rose to forgive us and to redeem us, restoring us to Himself. The price He paid for our salvation should touch us – it is meant to. Roy Hession related the following story in his classic book Calvary Road.
A saintly African Christian told a congregation once that, as he was climbing the hill to the meeting, he heard steps behind him. He turned and saw a man carrying a very heavy load up the hill on his back. He was full of sympathy for him and spoke to him. Then he noticed that His hands were scarred, and he realized it was Jesus. He said to Him, “Lord, are you carrying the world’s sin up the hill?” “No,” said the Lord Jesus, “not the world’s sins, just yours!” As that African simply told the vision God had just given him, the people’s hearts and his heart were broken as they saw their sins at the Cross. Our hearts need to be broken too and only when they are shall we be willing for the confessions, the apologies, the reconciliations and the restitution, that are involved in a true repentance of sin.
Christ came and died that we might repent, believe, and receive new life. His peace covers our hearts and grants us the confidence to see ourselves as truly forgiven and cleansed.
This is a spiritual reality, not a physical one. And as a spiritual reality there is mystery associated with it. We are forgiven, cleansed, restored, reconciled, redeemed, and renewed. We live in a mystical union with Christ. His death, the payment for our sins, moves us, and we live in the reality of His death in that it separates us from sin. We died with Him is the biblical explanation, and we also live with Him. We do not only live in the reality of His death. We also live in His life. His Spirit must mediate this in our lives, but He is willing and ready to do so. His life in us is the experience of grace. The spiritual reality awakens our spirits – and our spirits are not the same as our emotions. Even a lost man has emotions, and is capable of deep feelings. What we receive in Christ is a new life, a spiritual resurrection.
How many values do you place on church and the Christian life that are primarily or merely physical realities? Some love Christian music – nothing wrong with that – but do they love it more than Christ? Have they substituted the spiritual reality of living together with Christ for an emotional and physical reality of listening to some type of music. Some have substituted architecture, or tried to, the beauty of church buildings, the ambiance of a sanctuary, for life in Christ. Others have chosen the respect they feel in leadership, or the friends they have in church, perhaps some exciting programs of the church, or the comfort of the moral teachings of the Christian faith. For many people, the church provides a social role in their lives, the christening of children, the representation of community, providing some sort of wholeness as we celebrate the different stages of life. None of these things are bad, in fact, they are all good things, but they can compete with what must be the center of our experience – knowing Christ!
I have known some people to think someone is reached for Christ because that person likes “Gospel Music,” but liking Christian music, experiencing some emotion in a worship experience is not the same as meeting Christ face-to-face (2 Cor. 4:6), or experiencing His life. The reason Christ came was to make us truly alive in Him. And even the sense of social wholeness that a church can help provide – as meaningful as that may be – is not the same as being made alive in Him.
Whatever else you seek in the Christian faith, seek first His face and His life. Seek to know Him, to experience Him, to draw close to Him, to be filled with His Spirit, to walk in relationship with Him. The concept of “But God” must never be set aside with the words “But Church” or “But Christian Culture.” The church is the result of God’s work within us.
Prayer: Oh Christ, I thank You for Your redemption and Your love. I thank You that You did not leave us in our sins but that You came to redeem us and call us to Yourself. I thank You that we have life in You and You in us, that we know You not merely as a principle or a concept, or even as a social culture, but that we experience You as Spirit, Truth, and Life. Show us Your face today, that we might walk with You. Amen.