Our hearts are restless until they find rest in Thee. – Augustine
G.K. Chesterton once said, “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.”
What he meant is that man is searching for something, but he knows not what. All of us do the same in some way or another. We reach out to find something that we think just might fix us, something that will fill the void that sin has created within. In other words…. we reach out for a god. Unfortunately, because we’re sinners, the gods we naturally reach for, rather than helping us, harm us. Certainly this is the case with the people connected to the Ashley Madison scandal. Millions of people (35 million!) seeking after some sort of fulfillment, some sort of Real pleasure, have instead been led into real pain, real destruction, real despair. We ought not be surprised. This is the bondage of the will the Bible, Augustine, and Luther speak so much about. Instead of reaching out and finding the true God, we actually prefer the false gods of our own making: money, power, sex - you name “It”, we look to “It” for meaning. As much as our idols promise to satisfy us, to bring us life, the result is always the same: Death.
Thankfully, it is through death that God does his most glorious work.
He is the God after all who raises the dead and brings forth a new creation. How does God go about making us into these new creations?
2 Corinthians 5:19 says, “In Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” Let me say that in my own words: In Christ God was making the world His friends. How? By not counting their sins against them.”
The words I want to focus on here are those words “not counting”. In Greek its “me logizomai.” It’s the sort of term that was used in accounting practices and the idea was that one purposely overlooked a debt owed to them.
So the illustration might be something like this: Imagine going on a spending spree with your credit card. You seem to have no limit, you just spend, spend, and spend! You know you don’t have the money to pay off any of the debt you’re accruing, but you don’t care. You want stuff and so you’re going to get stuff. By the end of it all, you’ve bought a new house, a new car (let’s make it a Bentley because I like the way Bentleys look). You’ve dined at the finest restaurants, everything you’ve ever wanted, you bought.
And then….. You receive your credit card statement in the mail. Suddenly, a little bead of sweat comes down the side of your face; you feel the blood rush to your head. You finally sit down to open it, and amazingly, there’s no balance there! Now it’s not as if the credit card company doesn’t have a record of every penny you spent. But apparently, they haven’t counted against you yet. The debt’s real, and you do owe it, but your lender has overlooked it.
In order to declare you a new creation God has overlooked your debt, your trespasses and sins! All of them! Your addictions? Overlooked in Christ. Your pride? Overlooked in Christ. Your Ashley Madison account? Overlooked in Christ.
Secondly, in order to declare you a new creation, God makes an appeal….
In 2 Corinthians 5:20 the Apostle Paul refers to those who preach as ambassadors, saying “God makes his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” In order to declare us as new creations, God appeals to us through the mouths of preachers, or “ambassadors”.
Of course, that word “ambassador” is still used today in governments around the world. An ambassador has one job: declaring exactly what their leader says. They don’t change the message at all. They may be creative about how they deliver the message, but the message is exactly what the King wants them to say. Period!
What is the message Christian ambassadors have to proclaim? Contrary to what you may have heard, it is not “your best life now” and it is not “be better or else”, rather it is “no matter what you’ve done, how disfigured and scarred sin has left you, God has restored friendship with you through Jesus Christ. No matter how unworthy you may feel, you are loved in Christ, so be reconciled to God.”
In her memoir, The Whisper Test, Mary Ann Bird shares the power of this sort of love in her own life. She was born with multiple birth defects: deaf in one ear, a cleft palate, a disfigured face, crooked nose, and lopsided feet. As a child, Mary Ann suffered not only the physical impairments but also the emotional damage inflicted by other children. “Oh Mary Ann,” her classmates would say, “What happened to your lip?” “I cut it on a piece of glass,” she would lie.
One of the worst experiences at school, she reported, was the day of the annual hearing test. The teacher would call each child to her desk, and the child would cover first one ear, and then the other. The teacher would whisper something to the child like “the sky is blue” or “you have new shoes.” This was the “whisper test.” If the teacher’s phrase was heard and repeated, the child passed the test. To avoid the humiliation of failure, Mary Ann would always cheat on the test, secretly cupping her hand over her one good ear so that she could still hear what the teacher said.
One year Mary Ann was in the class of Miss Leonard, one of the most beloved teachers in the school. Every student, including Mary Ann, wanted to be noticed by her, wanted to be her pet. Then came the day of the dreaded hearing test. When her turn came, Mary Ann was called to the teacher’s desk. As Mary Ann cupped her hand over her good ear, Miss Leonard leaned forward to whisper.
“I waited for those words”, Mary Ann wrote, “Which God must have put into her mouth, those seven words which changed my life.”
Miss Leonard did not say, “The sky is blue” or “You have new shoes.”
What she whispered was, “I wish you were my little girl.”
Do you hear that? That’s essentially the thrust of the appeal God brings to us through His ambassadors.
It is not just “I wish you were mine”, it is “You are mine.”
And yet….as beautiful as this is, we still have a problem (at least in theory): How can it be that God overlooks our sins if He is just? Justice demands wrongdoing being punished. How can it be that God appeals to us telling us we’re reconciled to Him? Our holy God can't even be in the presence of sin and yet he's telling us sinners somehow that we’re loved, that we’re reconciled?
The answer is found in 2 Cor. 5:21: “For our sake he made him (Jesus) to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him (Jesus) we might become the righteousness of God.”
Folks this is the Gospel!!!! This. Is. The. Good. News! My sin, your sin, everybody’s sins for His righteousness.
Jesus Christ, completely man, and completely God, perfect in every way, receives our debt, our sin and is punished for it on the cross. In exchange, we are given His perfect righteousness. And in doing this, God's perfect justice is satisfied; therefore, in the courts of heaven it is as if we are seen as completely perfect (what Ashley Madison account?), as a new creation. As Romans 8:3 says, “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh.”
So let’s go back to the credit card illustration. To make it line up with what we’re told in the gospel, we need to realize that not only is the debt not held against us, but it’s if we’ve been given infinite, unending credit to spend as much as we like! Forever! You are not just forgiven of your sins, you are credited with His righteousness. It is literally as if God can only see Christ covering you when He looks upon you! Therefore God can indeed declare we are reconciled new creations. Everything that is Christ's is given to us: eternal life, hope, joy, peace, assurance, victory and so much more. Everything that we find ourselves searching for in an adulterous website or in drugs, booze, family, money, whatever, are ultimately only found through an exchange with a crucified and risen Savior: My sin, His righteousness.
Ultimately, He is the meaning our heart’s been searching for…. even at the door of a brothel.