and Jeremy Westcott
Face to face
From the beginning we were created to have an intimate relationship with God. Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37-38 to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind” and in John 14:6 that the only way we can come to the Father is through Him. Face to face engagement reveals the reality of who God truly is – Love – and exposes the untruths we may have assimilated over the years. Jesus is the ultimate expression of that Love, so if it doesn’t look like Jesus then it probably isn’t Love.
God wants us to know the truth of who He is and who we are as His children. It is the tactic of the accuser to get us to think wrongly about God and about ourselves. As long as we see God as having a dark side, we will never trust him completely. There will always be a slight fear that contradicts love.
Quantum physics 1.01
For example, somehow we have come to believe that God cannot look upon sin, and that He has to turn His face away. If it were true that He could not look upon sin, we would not be here! Quantum physics 1.01 tells us that if He were to stop observing us, we would cease to exist.
On the cross, when Jesus quoted the opening words of Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He was drawing people’s attention to the content of the whole psalm and its relevance to the events playing out before them. But He had previously told his disciples:
“Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (John 16:32).
We can clearly see that the hour He was referring to was His crucifixion. According to Jesus, the Father never turned His face away from Him. He was right there with Him.
How could we have got this wrong? The answer is, because we have got something even more fundamental wrong too. We think that on the cross Jesus was taking our punishment for us, suffering the wrath of a vengeful God in judgment that should have fallen upon us. We are used to our human justice system which requires retributive justice – payback – but the truth is that God’s justice is always restorative. We will look at this whole subject of the atonement in detail in another post, but for now let’s consider what the cross was about, if not punishment.
The original Greek word for ‘sin’ used most often in the New Testament is ‘hamartia’. It is a noun (the sin) not a verb (to sin). ‘The sin’ is the sin of Adam, choosing to follow the DIY pathway of the tree of knowledge of good and evil rather than the pathway of the tree of life. From Adam we all inherited spiritual death (which is a lost relationship with God and lost personal identity), so like Adam we are living in something less than God’s original blueprint or design for us, not recognising our true identity as a person made in His image.
So the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23 NASB), but God has a solution ready: for as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22). ‘The sin’ did not need to be punished, as religion would have us believe, but forgiven, corrected, dealt with and removed. We cannot earn God’s forgiveness by doing ‘good’ things (that is the DIY tree again): forgiveness is God’s gift to each of us in Christ.
The word of reconciliation
God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:19).
The Greek word for ‘the world’ in that verse is ‘cosmos’: it certainly includes the whole planet, and much more besides. Jesus came to reconcile and restore absolutely everything and everyone in the whole of creation back into relationship with God. That is exactly what He accomplished through his death and resurrection, and now we all share in the victory of the cross and resurrection life. In relationship with God we all have a restored identity, knowing we are accepted, forgiven, blessed, and made righteous.
Since we now have the same ministry of reconciliation that Jesus had, we choose to show love and mercy to others just as He has shown love and mercy to us. What is more, the more we engage with the real God, the wider, deeper, longer and higher we perceive that love and mercy to be.
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‘Future’ post, as promised
These blog posts are adapted from Mike’s teaching in the ‘Engaging God‘ subscription programme.
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