Both have everything to do with connection–a life embraced, to embrace.
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he contrasts the Mosaic old covenant Law that produced death with Jesus’ new covenant of grace that transforms and gives life through the Spirit.
He speaks of a veil that remains over us when we don’t see Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Today, this veil is a religious construct–seeing an unresurrected Jesus through a lens of man-instituted laws that hold us in bondage with obligation, insecurity and fear. But as soon as we turn to Christ’s finished work, our eyes are opened and we begin to walk out into freedom (see 2 Cor.3:12-17).
So this veil must be removed first. For we cannot properly minister what we don’t see ourselves. Nor can we properly represent His heart as His Kingdom ambassador until we see ourselves in Him.
Otherwise, we will preach a veiled message of death–rules-based righteousness, behavior-based holiness, to guilt people with conditional acceptance and love.
Beloved, we cannot afford to bypass this first ministry, for this is where our real life is hidden (Col.3:3). Here’s what Paul said about it (bold-type added for emphasis)…
“But we all, with unveiled face,
beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord,
are being transformed into the same image
from glory to glory,
just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Therefore, since we have this ministry,
as we have received mercy,
we do not lose heart.” (2 Cor.3:18-4:1 NKJV)
Who do you see when you look straight into a mirror? You see yourself, right?
Likewise, when when we see our own reflection in the Father’s affections, like the Ugly Duckling, we finally find out who we really are. I talked about this in my post about your treasure and His precious pearl.
The more we behold, the more we see ourselves in Him–from glory to glory!
Do you see it now?
This is our primary ministry. Everything else we may do must flow out from this place of rest. This is where transformation takes place.
The second ministry is reconciliation. I’ve talked about this before, that our ministry is declaring Jesus’ finished work on the cross for our freedom. Here’s what Paul says later on in this letter (bold-type added for emphasis).
“All this is from God,
who reconciled us to himself through Christ
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting people’s sins against them.
And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors,
as though God were making his appeal through us.
We implore you on Christ’s behalf:
Be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor.5:18-20 NIV)
Do you understand what he’s saying here? We had nothing to do with what God has already done. God reconciled (literally, exchanged) us to Himself through Christ–not through our moral behavior or foolish promises to reform ourselves. And certainly not by our good deeds.
So this ministry is to announce that God is not holding people’s sins against them anymore. I say this because, traditionally, the church has been obsessed with the opposite message!
And I respectfully submit that we’ve done so precisely because we don’t know who we are and therefore see Moses with a veil instead of Christ crucified.
Beloved, our ministry is not to rub people’s sin in their faces but to represent the Father’s heart, which was demonstrated in Christ finished work–to declare that every single person who lives, and who ever will live, was forgiven on the cross 2,000 years ago. For the writer of Hebrews tells us it was once and for all, forever (Heb.7:27; 9:12; 10:10).
That means that God’s forgiveness is not an ongoing deal. It’s a done deal!
You might ask, what about passages like Acts 3:19, where Peter told them to repent so that they might be forgiven? Actually, the Young’s Literal Translation gives us a better rendering of what he actually said (bold-type added).
“reform ye, therefore, and turn back,
for your sins being blotted out,
that times of refreshing may come
from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19 YLT)
First. notice that the point is to be reconnected–refreshed in the presence of the Lord. Because the “blotting out,” correctly rendered past tense, is already done. So repentance is turning from our love of ritual sanctification and self-justification to believing it’s already done…so that we can be embraced, to embrace.
You were forgiven. Period. Whether you want to believe it or not.
Now, I don’t believe in universal reconciliation. Love requires free will to choose; thus, God will not force anyone to accept His free offer. But I do believe we’ve foolishly preached “another gospel” for too long by mixing our own humanistic impurities into the beauty and wonder of God’s pure grace (see Gal.1:6-9; 3:1-5).
It’s not about legalism or license.
And your choice is not about behaving but believing.
Our problem is, we’re instinctively such grace-haters and so entrenched in guilt-empowered Christianity, we can’t see our way to accept this scandalous message of reconciliation. So we put our own veil over it…because our own heart is veiled.
And this is why it’s not really good news to anyone, but fear is an unrelenting taskmaster, which is why Paul warned us not to get ourselves entangled again in this religious yoke of slavery (Gal.5:1).
Beloved, God is not holding your sins against you anymore. There is no gulf between us and the gate is wide open on His side. Like Adam, we are the ones hiding. So we should be preaching the right message. But we won’t see it rightly until we see ourselves in Him, letting Him transform our judgmental heart and make it like His.