"Legal vs. Relational"
But you may ask, how does a person find God? Well, hopefully since most of us are Christians, and some of us have been believers for a lengthy period of time, a short, simple answer would be, “believe and receive Jesus Christ into your heart.” Only through faith in Christ and His work on the cross can we be reconciled to God. In other words, searching for God begins and ends with Jesus Christ. Within the scope of everything else I say regarding the beauty of the Lord, this is foundational. Do not try to proceed without this truth.
When God moves upon us by His Spirit with our undeserved favor (grace) we have the choice of receiving this unconditional love and being forgiven or rejecting God’s mercy. If we receive it, we are thus forgiven and restored to a relationship with God which was previously broken due to our sin. Our debt of sin has been cancelled by the crucifixion of Christ. The punishment or wrath of God has been averted. Jesus Christ was the perfect sacrifice for the atonement (forgiveness) of our sin. We are now declared holy and righteous through faith in Christ. Proper justice has been administered, not upon us, but upon God’s own Son. This salvation theme has been preached for centuries and continues today. And it is absolutely, positively accurate.
This may be called the “legal” side of salvation or “justification.” Let me explain a little further. It is often depicted as a scene in a court of law. We have the accused…us. We have the plaintiff, the injured party…God. “The wages of sin is death.” So since we have all (admittedly) sinned against God, we each deserve death. God, the loving but just Judge, must rightly convict us of our sin, but He then allows the sentence, death, to be carried out on His own Son. Jesus willingly becomes the perfect sacrifice because He is without fault. God’s entire wrath upon us is appeased due to His Son’s sacrifice. Again, this is absolutely, positively accurate and should be taught by churches and understood by all Christians.
We are redeemed, that is, bought with a price. That price was the life of the Son of God. Because Christ took our sins and our punishment we are considered righteous, just, “sentence served.” Our debt is paid in full by Jesus. We need to constantly celebrate these truths. Nevertheless, one thing about this debt-cancelled, sentence-muted message bothers us somewhat. It does not feel very “personal.”
THE RELATIONAL SIDE
There are other salvation details, not necessarily any “deeper” (but just as deep) that present another side of the same truth. It might be considered not only a further explanation but a new facet of the same truth focusing more on our restored “relationship” with our Heavenly Father than the resultant “legal” ramifications of the sacrifice of Christ. How does the theme “the beauty of the Lord” in any way relate to the atonement (crucifixion of Christ)?
Besides God’s intent to wipe away our debt of sin once and for all, fulfill His wrath, and make us truly sinless (just) in His eyes through Christ, He also desires His “beauty” or His glory to rest upon each of us. That is only possible when we are restored to a right relationship with God through faith in Christ. Do you see the connection?
His holiness was instilled within us when He created us in His image. Nevertheless, our “imago Dei” or “image of God” was stained when we sinned and rebelled against God. When we receive Christ, our image is once again restored “on paper.” But God wants His splendor to once again indwell all believers and His beauty to emanate from within us outward to the world in “practice” (not just “on paper”)… through the Holy Spirit!