Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, January 5, 2012 0 comments

I remember reading a news article that caught my attention about one month ago. It was written by NBC Universal and you can find it online. It was about a man who walked into a downtown Sears store in Seattle, WA and handed a note with a $100 bill to a customer service associate. In the note, he explained that he had stolen $20-$30 from them back in the 1940s and wanted to pay them back, plus interest! Wow!

Now, depending on your regard for the law and those who break it, there could be a wide variety of reactions to this story. But let's remember that way back in the Old Testament, before Christ came to this earth, this was the way to deal with theft as determined by God through Moses. "A thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his theft" (Exodus 22:3b [NIV]). Nowadays, we go through a process that takes a very long time and involves lawyers, judges, juries, and court fees. And there is still no guarantee of justice even after all of that! In the Old Testament, it was as simple as settling the matter fairly by paying back what was owed or working for it. In the news story referenced above, the man did not leave his name or even say anything to the employees. While many applauded his actions after the fact, he clearly did not do it for any other reason but to "atone" for his mistake from almost 70 years ago.

The word for this week is "atonement". My theology professor at Winebrenner Seminary called it "at one ment" because that phrase embodies what it means almost literally. When we steal from or otherwise sin against anyone with whom we are in relationship, the relationship is broken and we are in need of reconciliation. We go from being "at one" with the person to being separated by the hurtful choices. This happens when we sin against God. Now I'm gonna try to be as brief and clear as I can about what that means. When I say "sin against God", I don't just mean breaking rules that our Creator has arbitrarily set up. That's not what I believe about God. You see, we do not exist for ourselves alone. Each and every one of us were born to bring glory to God through our existence and every command he has given or structure he has set up was for the sole purpose in helping us bring him glory. Therefore, disobeying those commands doesn't break relationship with God simply because he didn't want the rule to be broken. Rather, sinning against God and his commands STEALS from him because it lessens our ability to bring him glory.

Because of our sins, we are no longer "at one" with God. We need to find a way to pay our restitution like the old man in the Sears store. However, the problem is that we didn't just "steal" once 70 years ago. We keep "stealing" over and over and over again. If we live trying to please God by reconciling ourselves to him, we'll simply grow more and more frustrated as we take 2 steps forward, then 3 steps back, and so on and so forth. We cannot do anything to make ourselves "at one" with God, so we needed something to do it for us However, in this case, the "something" became SOMEONE. Writing about Christ Jesus, Paul says: "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood" (Romans 3:25a). Elsewhere in his writings, Paul elaborates on what he means by "sacrifice of atonement" when he addresses the Christians in Colosse: "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation" (Colossians 1:21-22).

Those words of Paul are some of my favorite in the whole bible because he breaks it down so plainly for us. The bottom line is that we started out ("we" in the sense of Adam and Eve) as "at one" with God. Then, we were alienated from him by our thoughts and actions. But NOW, we have an opportunity to be reconciled back to him and be "at one" with him again thanks to Christ's atoning sacrifice. We simply must believe by faith first that it was necessary, and second that it has already been done. If we fail to believe one or both of these crucial truths, we are still alienated from God. Praise God that he has brought us back to one with him!