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Further In: April 2022

How did Jesus reconcile us to Himself?

Kayla Yiu April 18, 2022

Editor’s note: Each month, In Touch staff members respond to an excerpt from Dr. Stanley’s teachings. For this round, Joseph Miller, Tim Rhodes, and Kayla Yiu discuss how we think about the crucifixion.

Romans 10:9 promises, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Though good news, it’s not necessarily news for anyone who has been following Jesus for some time. But unfortunately, this basic tenet of the Christian faith, when reiterated again and again, can begin to lose its meaning and effect in our life. As we prepare to celebrate Easter, how can we refresh our perspective of the crucifixion and resurrection? How can we bring new meaning to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His relationship with us? This month’s discussion excerpt comes from Dr. Stanley’s sermon “The Supreme Moment in Human History”:

At the cross, God in Christ Jesus was reconciling the world unto Himself. The word reconcile means “to bring back together two that have been separated, two that have been estranged.” Think about the fact that they stretched Jesus out on the cross. No matter how low in life people are, or how far out yonder they are, or where they are in life, God’s wonderful loving arms were reaching out. What was God saying? “I want to bring you home. I want to forgive you. I want you to be who I created you to be. I will enable you to become the person I created you to become.” God was in Christ reconciling, bringing back together.

Art by Jonathan Todryk

Tim: As I look at this excerpt, I’m struck by these words: “No matter how low in life people are, or how far out yonder they are, or where they are in life, God’s wonderful loving arms were reaching out.” I think it's very natural, when we're confronted with our own sin and the glory of God, to feel we're unredeemable. But we can never be too far from God's grace to be redeemed. 

Joseph: Yes, I’ve had friends walk away from the Lord, saying, “He could never forgive me.” Which is heartbreaking, because that’s not the gospel at all.

Kayla: There's something really interesting about the fact that God is always reaching out to every one of us in the same way—that He doesn't play favorites. It's more about how much we want to respond or engage with Him. 

Joseph: Yes, that’s a great point. He doesn’t play favorites, and what pleases Him is faith and obedience—so we’re all “reconcilable.”

Tim: God really upends any sort of idea of merit-based hierarchy and levels the playing field completely.

Kayla: I was reading the other day about how John and Peter (maybe a couple of other disciples, too) appear to be Jesus’ “favorites.” But in reality they were most willing to respond to the invitation Jesus extends to everyone. I love imagining Him with that kind of consistency—open arms all the time, to everyone.

Joseph: It would do every Christian good to be reminded daily of the open arms of God. To look at others as brother or sister, not enemy.

Tim: And see that we are all no more or less worthy of God's love.

Kayla: He opens His arms to me, just as much as to someone I disagree with politically, for example.

“No matter how low in life people are, or how far out yonder they are, God’s wonderful loving arms were reaching out.”

Tim: To the very people we’d consider our enemies.

Joseph: Have y’all ever known people who felt as if they were unredeemable?

Tim: I had an uncle who died about a decade ago, and every conversation about Christianity would end with him saying that he’d done too many bad things to be saved.

It was heartbreaking. His life was so rough. Toward the end, he sort of admitted defeat, thinking that he deserved everything bad that was happening to him. I think my uncle had a view of Christ that our good had to outweigh our bad in order for us to be worthy.

Joseph: I think that often happens for two reasons: 1) People don’t truly understand the goodness of God, and 2) sometimes hidden pride makes us think we know more than we do. It’s like the good ol’ pastors who used to say during revivals, “Why wait to get clean before you get into the water?”

Kayla: When you think of Easter and the crucifixion, do you think of it as a reconciliation, a coming together? Why or why not?

Joseph: My wife and I have been reading The Chronicles of Narnia to our kids. After Aslan dies and (spoiler alert) comes back to life, He takes Edmund, his betrayer, aside for a long conversation. And Edmund transforms in the next two books into a brave and wise hero. C. S. Lewis really cared to show what a redeemed person looks like. That’s reconciliation embodied.

Tim: Oh, man—I forgot about that in the books. That’s a heartbreaking and convicting scene.

Kayla: I hate to say it, but I almost never think of the crucifixion as reconciliation. Reconciliation sounds warm and celebratory, but I usually feel guilty when I think about Jesus on the cross. I get bogged down by the sin and shame aspect of it all.

It's natural, when we're confronted with our own sin and the glory of God, to feel we're unredeemable. But we can never be too far from God's grace to be redeemed.

Tim: While I do think there is a certain amount of shame and conviction we feel, it’s only in order to realize the magnitude of Christ’s love.

Joseph: That’s a good point—it can be painful to consider what it took to put Him on the cross. When my kids get mad at Adam and Eve, I tell them, “I would have made the same decision.” Then they turn on the devil, which of course I allow.  “Yes, yes, child, you can hate Satan.”

Kayla: I think Easter would be so much easier to celebrate if I imagined what Dr. Stanley said—I want to bring you home. I want to forgive you. I want you to be who I created you to be. I will enable you to become the person I created you to become. I can get behind togetherness for sure!

Maybe we should see sin and shame as a tool of sorts—something that simply points us to God’s love.

Tim: The initial feeling of intense guilt and shame should never stay there. That's only the tip of the iceberg that helps move us to deeper work and healing and working to rectify the present.

Kayla: Yes, it’s meant to be a prompt, I think.

Tim: Unfortunately, I see so many people stay with those feelings and just leave it at that. But the whole point of Christ’s crucifixion wasn't to make us feel guilty; it was to liberate and transform us.

Kayla: How does imagining Jesus saying, “I want you to be who I created you to be” change your perspective of His death on the cross—or of your relationship with Him in general?

Joseph: It’s something I struggle to believe. I know it’s true, but sometimes it’s hard to let go of “me” to allow Him to do that work.

Maybe we should see sin and shame as a tool—something that simply points us to God’s love.

Tim: I often still think I can earn His favor or be good enough—as if it’s a fight to convince God I’m worthy.

Kayla: When I read Dr. Stanley’s words, the Jesus I picture in my head becomes much more gracious, more understanding of me as an individual with my quirks and characteristics. It reminds me that there's no one set mold for a Christian. God wants me to be me and glorify Him.

Joseph: Absolutely. We might not all look spiritually alike, but we will be known by the love we have for one another. Jesus said so, at least.

So, a question: If the gospel is such an invitation, what’s keeping people from responding? Why does “the good news” not sound so good?

Kayla: I think the good news might be clouded by people delivering it. Hypocrisy is a huge factor.

Tim: Yep, the messengers of the good news can sometimes be a great barrier. The grace that Christ gave to us believers isn’t always extended to others. 

Kayla: It's so interesting because we were never going to be perfect messengers, right? We will always be flawed. But how do we still effectively share the good news as imperfect people?

Joseph: By pointing out that we are flawed but forgiven.

Tim: I think there's something in not trying to be perfect followers—but in simply being authentic.

Kayla: It requires real transparency and vulnerability. And when I think about what it takes to have a transparent, open conversation, so much of it aligns with the fruit of the Spirit: gentleness, self-control, patience. If someone like that told me about the good news, even if I considered him or her an "enemy," I think the message would get across.

The whole point of Christ’s crucifixion wasn't to make us feel guilty; it was to liberate and transform us.

Joseph: Yes, that’s a good point, Kayla. If we’re exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit, we come across as much more accessible.

Kayla: It's almost as if Jesus gave us a path to rise above all our differences and get His message of reconciliation across.

Joseph: The Bible is clear that it’s the job of the Holy Spirit to draw people to God. We’re just vessels to help that work along the way.

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