Today’s instant global communications regularly bring us news of disasters, fires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, from all around the world. In every case, the destruction is rapid, occurring in mere minutes or hours, but the reconstruction process afterwards is slow, taking weeks and months and even years. In this we have a very suitable analogy for conditions and growth in the human spirit.
Humans were created good, in the image of the great triune creator God, Father and Son and Holy Spirit, because in His unlimited goodness and love He wanted friends and companions upon whom He could lavish His love and care. Forced love and obedience are meaningless, so He gave humanity the freedom to choose to love and obey Him. Disaster struck in the instant that those first humans chose to question God’s trustworthiness and disobeyed Him. That one act changed humanities inner systems to a default setting of disobedience and rebellion against God. The Bible is the record of God’s reconstruction plans for all who are willing to return to a loving and obedient relationship with Him.
Fast forward past His choosing of a particular people group into which God the Son was born to live and die as the Messiah, the Saviour, the necessary sacrifice or penalty for all human rebellion or sin. Fast forward to the present and His work in His people today. God does not change, so what He wants from His people does not change. In Christ, He revealed the fulfilment of His plans for restoration and reconstruction.
Reconstruction after a disaster cannot begin until the extent and nature of damage have been assessed and plans made for repairs and rebuilding. Similarly, when you or I are honest with ourselves, with God, or with each other, we have to acknowledge that in thought and deed we have both knowingly and unknowingly ignored and disobeyed God’s will. This is simply our default setting, the way we are as humans from birth. Therefore, there is nothing that we can do in our own power and ability to earn God’s favour and restored relationship until we submit to His plan for restoration, which involves several steps. First, we must recognize and acknowledge that we are alienated from God and cannot change that on our own. Second, we must recognize and accept that Jesus, as Son of God and Son of Man, died in our place so that we may be forgiven and restored to relationship with God. When we accept that wonderful free gift of salvation through Jesus death by God’s mercy and grace, and accept Jesus Christ as our own personal Saviour and Lord, we enter the reconstruction zone.
God has determined that all who so accept God the Son will receive benefits and will be changed, reconstructed into the image of God they were originally created to be. The benefits include receiving eternal life beginning now and lasting through all eternity in Heaven with Him. They include being adopted into the family of God as joint heirs with Jesus. They include becoming the temple of God as God the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within each and every true believer. They include joy unspeakable in times of close communion with Him. They include living more and more the best quality of life for which He designed us.
When we accept Jesus, we enter our personal reconstruction zone, and that is the tough part that too many seem to ignore today. The mushy sentimentality of following the stereotype of “gentle Jesus meek and mild” has been somewhat retained in our culture, so is relatively easy to follow, but the commands of God that require self-control and self-discipline contradict our present post-Christian culture and are harder to obey. As Paul wrote, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing unto God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2 NIV) In the same way that damaged buildings in a disaster often have to be torn down completely before rebuilding can begin, the false values and idols of our culture must be torn down in our lives and replaced by God’s understanding and purposes for those areas. As mentioned in an earlier column, money and possessions, sex, feelings, and preoccupation with self are common idols today, but there are others as well. Human intelligence and intellect, alone or combined with “higher” education or science, form a cluster of modern idols. Especially because of media power, the personalities and views of “stars” of entertainment or sports have become inappropriate idols to many people. Anything that is more important than God to an individual is an idol that will be torn down in God’s reconstruction project as He changes us from the inside out. All we have to do in the process is to trust in His goodness and love as we let Him rebuild us.