March 6, 2016
Text: Joshua 5:9-12
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
God’s Appeal Through us:
A Message of Reconciliation
The bible reveals God’s unfailing love for us. It is also the story of mankind’s sin that separates us from God’s love. But God so loved the world that He gave His only son to die for us- that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life. The last thing Jesus told the disciples before He ascended into heaven was to go and make disciples of all nations and share the good news of God’s saving grace.
Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul said that we are Ambassadors for Christ and have been entrusted with God’s message to the world. We-who are sinners saved by the grace of God- have been chosen to make God’s appeal to others to be reconciled with Him and others. In the words of Gary Haugen- “we are God’s plan to convince the world of His love.” That is quite a privilege- honor-and responsibility. Thankfully we are not sent out alone. Thankfully we do not have to depend on our own strength. Pray.
Starting with verse 14 from 2 Corinthians- just two verses before our text begins are the words: “for the love of God controls us”, writes Paul: “because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore, all have died, and he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” Herein is the foundational truth of why and how we are to regard others.
He goes on: “from now on, therefore- we regard no one from a human point of view- even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view- we no longer know him that way.”
When Jesus was born-only a handful of people really knew who he was. Only Mary and Joseph-the shepherds, the wise men were told by angels that Jesus was the Messiah. We don’t know much if any of Jesus’ growing up years- but we can assume it was a normal childhood. People regarded Jesus as: “the carpenter’s son”.
But when Jesus was baptized in the river Jordon by John the Baptist, people there heard God the Father’s voice saying: “this is my son- with whom I am well pleased.” No longer was he just a carpenter’s son- he was God’s Son.
Later when Jesus preached at his home town synagogue, people were impressed- but still regarded him as the carpenter’s son. For the next three years, Jesus traveled around the countryside- preaching repentance and good news-teaching- healing, feeding, casting out demons, and forgiving people of their sins (something only God could do) and people began to think of him as someone special- a good man- a good teacher perhaps- but nothing more.
Today, some people still put Jesus in a box- regarding him only as a good man, a do-gooder- a teacher and example of how to live- but nothing more.
One day Jesus asked Peter who people were saying he was. Peter told him that there was a lot of talk around town and were wondering if He were John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. But who do you say I am? Jesus asked him. Peter replied- “you are the Christ- the son of the living God.” It was a focal point in Peter’s life- no longer did he regard Jesus from a human point of view- but was convinced that Jesus was indeed the Messiah- the son of the living God.
We who have confessed Jesus to be our savior and Lord- cannot do so without first regarding Him as God’s son come to save. “If anyone is in Christ- they are a new creation- the old has passed away- behold, the new has come.”
Paul goes on to say that we have been reconciled to God through Christ. Webster defines the word: “Reconciled” as: “to make friendly again-to win over-to settle a quarrel- to bring into harmony.” The bible tells us that our sin separates us from God and one another- like an impassable chasm or an impenetrable wall that is too high and too wide to get over.
But thankfully- from Ephesians, chapter 2 we read: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility.”
Dividing wall of hostility? What is he talking about? We may know that doing something, saying something, thinking something that is incompatible with God’s way of thinking is wrong- but have we ever thought of our sin as hostile to God and others? Certainly the actions of a serial killer or a terrorist are hostile- but in comparison, our sins we consider “small and insignificant” – certainly they are not hostile are they? But they are. All sin is hostile to God and those we wrong. All sin kills- kills trust in relationships, kills our love for God and others- and kills our souls.
God’s word turns our thinking upside down- or rather right side up. From now on, we are to regard no one from human point of view. We are to see others as Christ sees them- no matter what they have done- that they are loved by God and found worthy to die for. It is hard for us to comprehend- how God could love and die for the most vile and deprived criminal. But thank God He does. Thank God he loves a sinner like me and has made me a new creation through Christ. Jesus bore all our sins on the cross for our sake on the cross- and there, Jesus became sin who knew no sin- so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
And now as new people in Christ- we have been entrusted with the greatest message of all times and for all people- a message too big to keep within the four walls of a church. We are to go tell the whole world- lavishly spreading it everywhere we go- placing God’s written word in the hands of people who may not have ever come to church like the Gideon’s- and by being the salt of the earth with a message of healing and restoration through Jesus Christ.
So it gets down to this: How do you regard Jesus? Do you believe that He is able and willing to do all He has promised to do? How do you regard others? What about those we meet everyday at the grocery store, at work, next door? Do we regard them as someone God died for and loves deeply? Even the ones who are rude or hard to be around? Even someone who has hurt you in the past?
How are we to live in a world like that? It is far too easy to regard others by their past or what they have done. It is our default mode when we are tired or hurt or stressed. I regret to say that I have been guilty of regarding some individuals in college that way-as a hostile individual who would never change- only to see them years later- and be greeted as a long, lost friend who has come home to Jesus.
What does it mean to have been entrusted with a message of reconciliation then? It is not always easy-perhaps never easy- because it means we have to have a servant’s mindset- it means we have to be the hands and feet and voice of Jesus- controlled by the love of God with a heart of compassion.
On Good Friday, when Jesus died for all- the entire sin of mankind died with Him. When Jesus the man breathed His last, the curtain in the temple that divided the presence of God in the holy of holies from everyone but the high priest once a year was torn in two from top to bottom. It was God tearing down the dividing wall so that we can come,
The season of Lent is about seeing our sins as hostile to God and others. It is about hearing God’s call to come as we are to the foot of the cross- and there confess our sins and lay our burdens down.
We have been born anew- the old has passed away- behold the new has come! Amen.