Dried Up And Useless
Over the past couple of weeks I have been visiting my son in the Middle East. In their small group we have been studying the book of Leviticus, in particular the offerings. Last night we were reflecting on the the incongruity of the sacrifices' as a sweet aroma to God and the reality that the numerous and continuous sacrifices would have smelt horrible. Blood splatter, flies buzzing, and decaying flesh served as a reminder of the human condition. So what made such a stench a pleasing aroma to God? It was the Israelites' faith that their offering would reconcile them to God. It was the sweet smell of grace and forgiveness.
Paul says that the cross is an aroma of death to unbelievers but an aroma of life to those who believe. It's a messy process delivering people out of darkness and into the light. But then again we are messy people. We who believe are most fortunate because Christ's blood has reconciled us to the Father in order to present us unblemished and above reproach to God. We celebrate in the prospect of standing before our Father loved and accepted. But there is a condition.
Wait just a minute! I thought once saved always saved. I thought no matter what I do me and God are good? I thought works is dead?
Colossians 1:23 gives a clear warning that we need to heed. We will be brought before the father unblemished if we continue in the faith. I have seen too many parents watch children wander from the faith and then say, "well, at least he accepted Jesus as a child." But according to Paul past professions are meaningless in the face of apostasy.
The Armenians will say he left the faith and the Calvinist will say he was never a believer, but it doesn't matter how he gets there if the lack of faith sets him a part from God. There are too many wolves in the church that want to water down or add to the gospel. They preach prosperity, liberation, legalistic, and hedonistic gospels. They delude the cross and blood, and sanitize Jesus' death. They pick and chose what scripture will make them feel good or justify their behavior. They are unstable and shifting, and in the end abandon the faith for an empty forgery.
We have less to worry about outside the church than we do inside. We hear of the atrocities against Christians by Muslims and worry that the church will disappear in the wake of its brutality. But the self inflicted wounds of textual criticism of the late 1800s turned Europe into a Christian wasteland by 1905, and the twentieth century has seen an increasing decline within the church of America. The church needs to listen to Paul's words to the Colossian church. We need to use them as a rallying cry to a deeper faith on the foundation of Christ. Only then can we stand unshaken amidst the storm.
Our behavior matters. Our thinking matters. Our love for one another matters. Our deep and abiding faith in Christ matters. Praise God that we have been reconciled by his blood and that he is presenting us unblemished and above reproach before the Father! Don't be led astray. I'm just saying.
"he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard." Col. 1:22,23