The Starting Point of Restoration

Gotta begin here.

The Reconciled World (4)

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister. Colossians 1.21-23 (emphasis added)

Living exemplars
It may be that some doubt the importance of that ministry of reconciliation that has been given to us – the work of restoring the reconciled world. They may believe that, having been justified by grace through faith, we are assured of a place with God forever, and now they must only hold fast to their confession until the Lord takes them home to glory or returns in power at the end of time. Certainly this great blessed hope is true and integral to a sincere appreciation of the work of Christ and the gift of salvation. True, but incomplete and insufficient for us to realize increasing measures of the full and abundant life we have in Christ, the great salvation He has bestowed upon us, and the progress of His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

Did God – through the glorious life, horrible sufferings, and victorious resurrection and ascension of our Lord Jesus – reconcile the world to Himself, merely to leave it languishing in sin? Is He content for it to groan and travail until the return of Jesus? Indeed, not; the creation and all its creatures and systems and cultures and societies groan and travail, though reconciled to God, eagerly anticipating the restoring work of the sons and daughters of God, that the freedom and joy and power they have come to know in the Gospel might be brought to bear on creation in whole and part (Rom. 8.19- 22).

But in this work of restoration, given to us by God, we may not skip any steps. And the first step, the daily and ongoing step, the most important and critical step in restoration, is the calling to work out our salvation in fear and trembling before the Lord (Phil. 2.12). God has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ. He does not save us merely that we might languish and groan and travail in sin, as we did before our reconciliation. Paul insists that God, Who is at work within us, with exceedingly abundant power (Phil. 2.12; Eph. 3.20), is determined to present us to Himself holy, and blameless, and above reproach. If we are truly grounded in faith, and steadfast in the hope of the Gospel, we will embrace the work of restoration that applies to us, as living exemplars of the larger calling of restoration. It was to this end that Paul labored so diligently in the ministry of preaching Jesus and making disciples: “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily” (Col. 1.28, 29).

First fruit of creation
With this, the apostle James heartily agrees: “In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures” (Jms. 1.18).

Our experience of salvation provides a kind of pattern, or template, for thinking about how the grace and truth of God should affect the rest of creation. God clearly intends the redeeming and reconciling work of Christ to reach to all His creatures. The groaning and travailing creation is waiting for the revelation of the sons and daughters of God, that it might share in the freedom we have obtained. The same is true of all the culture we make and use each day, and of the larger world we inhabit, and all its systems, institutions, aspirations, products, and protocols. What happens with us as believers is the first fruit of God’s Kingdom field, where He is laboring to bring forth a harvest to His glory in every aspect of life.

We have seen how Jesus worked to achieve the reconciliation of all things, and, as we shall see in this series, those five stages of work apply to us as well.  Yet pursuing those works – daily advancing in our spiritual warfare, walking holy paths, overcoming the power of sin, increasing in Kingdom righteousness, and living toward the world to come – will neither appeal to us nor be of such compelling attraction that we take them on earnestly and continuously, until we establish a proper focus for restoration, beginning in ourselves.

Let me suggest four aspects of such a focus, which we must give ourselves to continuously, and encourage one another in daily.

Focus for restoration
First, we must develop a continuous focus on Christ, in Whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Ps. 16.8; Col. 2.2, 3; 3.1-3; Heb. 2.5-9). We must see Jesus in all His righteousness; attend to all His teaching; observe His manner of relating to others; and see Him exalted in glory in all His radiant brilliance and power. This vision of Jesus can guide us in thinking about each creature and its place in the divine economy. Through meditation, study, and prayer, as we bring each creature, every thing, before the exalted Lord and King of all creation, we will come to understand the unique place, purpose, and qualities of each one.

Second, we must nurture a vision of the restored creation, of its most perfect state and contribution to the divine economy, and of its relation and contribution to the creatures nearest to it. Freedom – for which the groaning creation longs – means each creature realizing its full potential for goodness, according to God’s purposes and will. All things can bring glory to God, no matter how trivial or common, and our task is to bring the work of restoration to bear on all creatures, that they might be released to praise God as He intends (Ps. 148).

Third, we must focus on acquiring the skills that will enable us to attend to the “all things” of our own lives, that every interaction we have with them – people, places, or things – can shine with the light of Christ’s reconciliation. Such a focus requires constant prayer and learning, and seeing ahead to the work of each day, that God might show us how to do our work of restoration for His glory (Ps. 90.16, 17).

Finally, we must focus on all our work of restoration as an act of worship, offering ourselves, our time, our efforts, and the world we engage in as a sacrifice of praise to God. What will this require? How can we fulfill this great calling to be living sacrifices to God, and to offer up the work of our hands as a sweet offering in His nostrils? Unless we put in place such a vision and focus of our work, we are not likely to realize this great objective.

We are the first fruits, but not the whole harvest, of God’s redemptive work. If we love His world as He does, we will work to bring the benefits of Christ's salvation and reconciliation to it by every possible means.

For reflection
1. Why must the work of restoration begin with ourselves and our lives?

2. What does it mean to nurture a vision of restoration? How can such a vision be sustained?

3. Why is it important that we see our work of restoration as an act of worship? What would that look like in your life each day?

Next steps – Transformation: Meditate on all the ways you will engage the reconciled world today. Pray about each one, and offer each to the Lord for His glory. Envision your day as a day of restoring the reconciled world, and seek the filling of God’s Spirit.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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