[God] Can Remake [Your] Life Brand New
June 27, 2010
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Micah 7:18-20, Second Corinthians 5:16-21
Coming Face To Face With Yourself
1. There is something we can never avoid when we want to live for God by faith. We have to have an honest face to face look at ourselves and at the lives we have lived because assuming that we believe in God, "the I who I am " is undoubtedly in the sight of God, and "my life" has also carried itself out in the sight of God. Simply put, it means that since there is a God, we are seen and known by that God, and our lives too have been seen and known [by God]. Therefore, what kind of person I am and how I have lived become an issue.
2. When you take a deep down honest look at yourself and confront your life, unavoidably, you will have to think about your sinfulness, the mistakes you've made, the many bad things you have done. As a person who has been in the sight of God, when you go back over the path that you have lived, you cannot help but think about the fact that you have sins that have always been visible to the eyes of God though they were hidden to the eyes of humans. Even the times when [we] were standing on the side of justice, even the times when [we] have claimed [our] own righteousness and found fault with others and proven it, the fact that [we] have had sins of our own comes to light as well. In those moments [we] may not even have been aware of it. The truth comes to light that your own pride, greed, self-centeredness, and lying has caused injury and pain to many persons close to you. Indeed, as a matter of fact, the sins and other bad things that we can discover by reviewing ourselves will perhaps be no more than a small fraction. Never realizing it our whole lives, we don't know how big our sins really are.
3. Thus, not only thinking about God, but when we try to live by believing in God and we try to live with God, we cannot avoid coming face to face with the problem of our own sins, the problem of the sin in our own lives. In a sense, I'd say that is a pretty dreadful thing. It is a dreadful thing that we have to take a good hard look at ourselves in the presence of the One who is able to righteously judge our sins in the truest sense, and that we have to view as the problem not somebody else but our own selves. Therefore, we may even nod our heads, all the more, in agreement with those out there who think it is better not to say [I] believe in God. Rather than turning one's eyes onto one's own problems, they are much more comfortable standing on the side of criticizing, viewing as the problem the people around them, or their families, or the conditions of society, or the politicians. Not [comfortable] thinking anything about how that their whole life exists in the sight of God, but rather they are much more comfortable and used to living thinking, "When I die nothing happens. So, it's all the same no matter how I live."
4. Yet though, that's not how we see it; we are in the sanctuary at this moment. Meeting each week the church expresses faith in God and worships God. We make an attempt to go to God on a conscious level. Put another way, sinners though we ever be, [something or someone] is bringing us into God's light. Even at this moment, though we may be loaded with problems, not putting us somewhere else, [something or someone] is bringing us "just as I am" to this place, appearing before the presence of God. Why? It is because there has been a time each of us have been told and given the news, which is, that there is one and only one Someone who is able to righteously judge sin and to forgive that sin. That Someone who has the authority to give the final judgment has announced forgiveness with that same authority. We have been told that God is that very Someone.
God Throws Sin Into The Depths Of The Sea
5. In the scripture passage read for today, the Old Testament prophet said the following. "Is there any like your God, a God who removes guilt and pardons sin? God will not hold his anger for ever against the remnant of the people of your inheritance; because he rejoices in mercy. The Lord will be merciful to us again, he will suppress our guilt, and throw every sin into the depths of the sea," (Micah 7:18-19).
6. In the sixth century B.C.E. when Jerusalem was made to fall by Babylonia, its walls were destroyed, its temple was reduced to ashes, and when the people who lost the kingdom were hauled off as captives to Babylon, certain ones had thought that their own God had been defeated. But on the other hand, others had taken a good hard look at the truth, about who they were, about how they had been living, and what kind of history the race of people, to which they belonged, had been pursuing. They could not help admitting that they had turned their backs on God, that the history of their people was truly a history of betrayal and infidelity. They were probably stricken in their minds over the magnitude of their sins. But at that time what they had heard was the message of the forgiveness of sin, and not the message of condemnation from God.
7. Where it says, "suppress their guilt" it means "overcome their guilt." There is also the translation of "trample down (ignore) our guilt." God did not trample down upon the people of Israel. What he did wasn't that, rather, he trampled down their guilt, he cast into the depths of the sea every single one of their sins. To cast into the depth of the sea means it won't ever come back. He forgave them perfectly to that degree. Thus, they were permitted to begin living anew from that moment on.
8. We are being told that God is that kind of God. No matter what is in our past, no matter how sinful a life we had, God will cast every one of our sins into the depths of the sea and bury them for good, and make it so that they will never rise to the surface again. In this way then he is the one who restores us anew as beings whom he has forgiven. It is precisely because God is this kind of being that we can also honestly come face to face with ourselves. And we can repent and turn to God. We can come face to face with God again because there is abundant mercy and forgiveness with God.
9. To begin with, nothing will ever be resolved, even if we refuse to look at ourselves, shut our eyes to our sins, push the past off somewhere and put a lid on it. Nothing will change. There is no salvation in that. We can truly see that. If I use the example of a debt, it will be clear. If you have a debt that can never be repaid, even if you turn your eyes from that reality, even if you try to forget it, even if you do actually forget it, nothing will be different. Nothing will be resolved. It is exactly like that. When you have sin, what you need is forgiveness. You are to receive restoration anew and afresh by having the one with the authority to judge sin forgive you. In this way then, you are to begin living brand new right now.
The Hand Of Reconciliation Which God Has Extended
10. In addition, today we read the epistle of Paul addressed to the church at Corinth. [Paul] doesn't just say [God] restores us anew. Paul says, "Anyone who is joined to Christ is a person created brand new. The old person has passed away, a new person is born," (Second Corinthians 5:17). He says a newly created being arises, comparable to the act of primordial creation itself.
11. The old person has passed away. How? It is through the forgiveness that God gives. -- Because he dumps [a person's] sin into the sea [like garbage]. As a result, the old standing with God is over. The broken relationship in which we used to turn our backs in rebellion against God is over. The new relationship with God has already begun. That new relationship with God is expressed by the word "reconciliation." There is no longer anything that separates us from God. The division is removed. It is through the forgiveness of sin that comes by the unilateral grace of God. This fact is clearly written in verses eighteen and nineteen.
12. "As all of this comes from God, God makes us reconciled with himself through Christ, and imparts to us the task to do ministry for reconciliation. In other words, God causes the world to be reconciled with himself through Christ, not charging the people with the responsibility for sin, but instead he has entrusted the word of reconciliation to us," (Same book, verses eighteen and nineteen).
13. It is saying that the one who has the power to render the final judgment on us does not charge us with the responsibility for sin. If we translate the words "charge with the responsibility for sin," it is the words "count one's faults." We're in the habit of doing that. We count our faults and offences. We take up issue with the sins of other people one by one, and we seek recompense for each one. Or even if we don't seek recompense from the person, we keep a tight record in the notebook of our hearts and say "He did this. Then he did that." But God doesn't do that. God tears up the books on our sin. He says that he doesn't count them up anymore.
14. God does not count our sins, instead he himself has extended his hand of reconciliation. Even though we are really the guilty ones, God has extended his hand. The hand of reconciliation which he has extended to the world, the hand of salvation, has appeared in a form visible to the eye. As the One named Jesus Christ. Indeed, Jesus Christ, the one sent by the heavenly father, the one who hung on the cross to redeem our sin, yes he is the one who is the word of forgiveness from God, he is the hand of God's reconciliation which has been extended. "Through Christ he has made us reconciled unto himself," says the scripture.
15. Thus then, God has extended his hand to us. Therefore, it is clear what we need. By extending our own hands we too ought to clasp God's hand of reconciliation. In the sight of God I myself must be a sinner as seen by God's eyes, [but] in this condition I will clasp the hand of reconciliation. We are to receive forgiveness of sin from God and receive reconciliation with God. Doesn't Paul make an earnest appeal? "I beg you on behalf of Christ. Be reconciled unto God!" And when you do grasp the hand of reconciliation, you are to live tightly holding on to that hand. Joined to Christ, we live in Christ.
16. Thus, when [we] clasp the hand of reconciliation, when [we] are joined to Christ, we can say we are newly created persons. What has become new? Did [your] personality change? Did [you] become a good person? Those kinds of changes aren't important. [Your] relationship with God changed. [Your] relationship is become new. That's what is decisively important. God casts our sins into the depths of the sea. Thus, the old person is passed away, and the new person is born. Thus, anyone [can] live as a new person, with God, in God's sight.