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Friday, September 9, 2016

When the Heart Grows Cold


Summer reading lists are great. You might not always read everything on your list, let alone a single book on your list, but it’s nice to put something together, to strive for a goal. As a college student nearing the end of spring semester, reading a book for pleasure sounded like the most magical and wonderful experience I could look forward to in the summer. I’d had enough of textbooks, and yet the reality of exams made me have to endure reading copious amounts of school related material. All I wanted was time with God and time to sit down and read Scripture or gospel related books. I found myself peeking at C.S. Lewis’ words or reaching for the pages of my most recent John Piper purchase, only to realize I still had to focus on exams.

So you’d imagine my surprise when exams were ended and I was happily sitting down to dig into my gospel goodness when I discovered it wasn’t there. The desire to be close to God simply wasn’t there.

Have you ever had that happen to you? Everything seems well and dandy with your relationship with Christ until one day you just don’t feel like loving God. Or, you just don’t feel like you really love Him at all. I assumed that it was merely a moment of apathy, that it wasn’t serious, that it didn’t need immediate attention. Perhaps I was just so exhausted from exams and the school mind set that I needed a break. So I let it go and decided I would try again tomorrow. However, the next day came, as did another, and another… until a week went by and my “desire” hadn’t returned. It’s so easy to make excuses about our apathy, to assume that our feelings will come back; we need only give it time but not actually take any actions ourselves. Because let’s face it, doing something when we don’t feel like it is not exactly our cup of tea, or at least it’s definitely not mine. I’m supposed to enjoy my relationship with God all the time, right? It’s supposed to feel right all the time, so if I’m not feeling it, it must mean I’m just not supposed to do anything… Right?

My assumptions couldn’t be farther from the truth. This is not what the Gospel tells us. Second Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold new things have come.” As Christians, we’ve entered into a holy covenant, a beautiful union and a redeemed relationship with the most High God. And as we’ve become His, we are also bound to a covenantal promise to stay faithful to Him, to pursue Him as new creations. Second Corinthians goes on in verses 18 through 21 to say that, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Reconciliation is mentioned five times just in these few verses, and its repetition isn’t in vain. It’s important, but what does it mean? The Greek word used for reconciliation in this passage is katallassó and it has three meanings, which correspond to the progression in the text. The word katallasó was originally used for the proper exchange of coins for debt payments, so when it was applied to people, it typically meant to change from a position of debt or even enmity, to a position of good terms or friendship. So when verse 18 says that God reconciled Himself to us through Christ, it’s reminding us that our position of enmity and debt has been reconciled to friendship with God.

The second meaning of the word is seen in 1 Corinthians 7:11, being applied to marriage partners. A woman, had she been unfaithful to her husband was to either divorce him and be cut off entirely from him, or she was to be decisively reconciled, recommitting her vows, her love and her life to her husband by allowing him to forgive her and welcome her back, forgetting her past. Christ provided us, His Bride, with the option of coming back to Him even when our hearts cheated on Him. He made reconciliation possible so that our pasts and our sins could be forgotten.

The third meaning comes from looking at the root of the word, katá, which means “down to the exact point”, which magnifies katallassó to not merely mean exchange a price or decisively reconcile, but to take on a full change, to completely morph into something else – such as two people with differing opinions who decide to reconcile, they come to the exact same position, in perfect unity with one another. So at the end here it makes sense that Paul is pleading with the Thessalonians, on behalf of Christ, to be reconciled to God. He is begging them to be fully changed, reminding them that they truly are new creatures. Creatures who have been radically bought at a scandalous price by an overwhelming love from God.

As new creations in Him, apathy is simply not an option anymore. There may be days when I don’t feel like being in the Word or it feels harder to pray than normal, but on those days I must remember that Christ reconciled Himself to me at a high price so that I would have the freedom to reconcile myself to Him, so that I would have the freedom to pursue a relationship with Him. As a new creation, I must choose Him. I must choose to die to the flesh and live by the Spirit.  Even if it means going through the motions and not feeling like it… because the truth is, there will be plenty of times when we don’t feel like pursuing Him, when we will be like Hosea’s wife, Gomer, looking to other pleasures to wet our appetites. And because He is our Bridegroom with unending love, He still desires our affections and our lives, even if our affections might be half hearted at times… He still wants us to try because He is holding onto every piece of us, wanting a relationship.


So in these moments of not feeling like it, don’t be discouraged, but also don’t brush it off as nothing. Left alone, we can allow our hearts to grow colder and close our ears to His voice. These are opportunities to choose to love Him and respond to the Spirit that beckons us closer, even when we don’t feel like it. Isn’t this love? To choose Him, again and again… because He has chosen us, again and again.

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