In verse 20 of the first chapter of Colossians, Paul wraps up one of the most beautiful and theologically concise portraits of Jesus found in scripture — describing who He is and what He’s done for us — with these words:
…and through Jesus to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace through his blood on the cross (Colossians 1:20).
Reconcile is an interesting word – a banking term, or a lofty marriage therapy goal.
My husband The Pastor first started out in counseling, where he helped reconcile relationships and bring them back into balance and harmony. My friend Hilary is an accountant for a major hospital system, where she reconciles financial statements for the company. The amount of money recorded as leaving or coming into an account is compared with what is actually paid and received. The numbers must equal or balance in the end; if they don’t, there has been error or fraud.
The Bible speaks of this sort of accounting in spiritual terms as well, warnings of tallying up wrongs done against a righteous God.
…so…the whole world may be held accountable to God. Romans 3:19
For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. James 2:10
…all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13
I don’t know about you, but my spiritual accounts are in bankruptcy from a fortune’s worth of sinful withdrawals. And each day I add more —callous thoughts toward my husband, impatience with my children, indifference toward poverty and suffering, undisciplined actions in my faith.
The worst deductions are often self-righteous demands on my God, whom I feel, despite all the above, should provide a life for me that goes just as I imagine it.
These verses are sobering and ominous, and they’re meant to be. Who can bring balance into their accounts with God? Who can be naked and exposed before His eyes and be called clean? If we’re accountable for the whole law if we fail in a single point, who is able to stand?
And that’s why we must keep reading the verses that follow. Spiritual accounting exposes a desperate problem; scripture offers a daring hope.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested… through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. Romans 3:21-22
Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his…. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. Hebrews 4:9-10, 14
There is only One who can stand, and He has already stood in my place: Jesus. The image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Christ has brought my account into balance through his blood on the cross. I have spent too much on sin — committed all manner of error and fraud — but He has erased my debts and deficits.
I have been reconciled to God.
I know I’m resting in this gospel and not just reciting it when it shows up in my heart and my thoughts:
- My sin leads me to God-worship instead of self-despair. When I fail, it doesn’t crush me, it exalts Christ and His great mercy on my soul. As Hebrews 4:10 says, I have rested from dependence on my works; they cannot earn me life. Every day has now become a Sabbath rest, a chance to worship God for Jesus’ righteousness on my behalf.
- The wrongs of others don’t make me angry or judgmental; they break my heart. Christ has wiped my accounts clean, therefore I am not free to keep accounts for others. Instead, I am hurt by a world that wounded my Savior and ignores His sacrifice. I am broken that the love of Jesus is not yet known by all.
- I am set free from imaginary holiness. Cultural standards that pass for godly womanhood lose their hold on my heart. Christ has reconciled all things to God; I no longer need to reconcile them myself.
- My deepest joys come through my deepest failures. The weaknesses, the valleys, the sin, and the shame – they all become places to know more of the love of Christ, the power of His blood and the terrible price He paid for a wretch like me.
I do not always live this way. The path I think I’m walking for God is often the road that leads to death.
I default to hopeless, powerless labor to earn my way.
I stand in line to make deposits in an account that was paid and closed when I first cried out that Jesus was my only hope.
But Christ alone remains my confession. God, help me hold fast.
Read the next post in The Colossians Project.
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