God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
It’s a Mystery
The great gospel singer Andrae Crouch once wrote a simple, honest tune encapsulating the central mystery of Christianity: "I don’t know why Jesus loved me; I don’t know why He cared. I don’t know why He sacrificed His life. Oh, but I’m glad, so glad He did." The song splendidly summarizes Titus 3.5: “He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.” And it speaks to Isaiah’s despondency about our unworthiness: “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64.6)
The possibility of God’s acceptance comes only through our impossibility to attain it. It’s a conundrum that can’t be logically explained or solved. It can only be embraced by faith. After we internalize it, we shouldn’t be rattled if others can’t comprehend or appreciate it. Nor should we be shocked to encounter those with no earthly idea why anyone—especially Jesus—wants to love us, or why they’re most definitely not glad about our assurance that He does.
Paul told the Colossians, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds, as shown by your evil behavior.” (Colossians 1.21) When the subject of behavior arises, ostracized believers tend to get defensive. Being told they didn’t act like “acceptable” Christians was what drove them away to begin with. But look carefully at what Paul said and an entirely different picture emerges. Unworthy behavior is a product, not a cause, of rejection. And here’s the mystery’s most stunning twist: wrongdoing directly results from choosing to adopt alienated attitudes. “You were enemies in your minds,” Paul wrote, “so you started acting out.”
Paul's logic works like this. We were labeled as unworthy, naïvely believed it, and then--thinking we had nothing to lose--lent credence to the lies with our actions. Therefore, invalidating any excuses for our rejection starts by refusing to entertain the slightest doubt about God's love and acceptance. That's where so many of our problems, including self-condemnation and battles with temptation, originate.
The Ripple Effect
Overcoming alienation is vital for our own spiritual growth and profoundly changes our lives. But its impact reaches farther, setting off a ripple effect in others’ lives. Listen to Philippians 2.5-7: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who… made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” In service to others, we step out of ourselves, Christ moves in, and the mystery comes alive. When people who once dismissed us as unacceptable see Christ in us, they witness His power in action. It proves He can and will use anyone who follows Him, providing hope that they too may experience His glory. It’s no longer a mystery. Now it’s a miracle.
Allowing Christ's power to work in us sets off a ripple effect that reaches others with the hope that His glory can also be revealed in them.
(Tomorrow: Going Overboard)