Are you overwhelmed by the hatred and violence in our country these days? Don’t you wish we could all just get along? For some of you, the disunity is more than a news report or a social media post. It’s starting to affect your relationship with your neighbors, your co-workers, maybe even your relationship with your family and friends. Some of you have taken sides and made your positions known. Others of you are afraid to say anything, but even your silence is judged. Everyone has a different perspective on the root problems and the solutions. Everyone thinks they’re right and the others are wrong. How can we find reconciliation and peace again?
Where is God in all of this? Do our broken relationships with one another matter to Him? And if they do, how can we understand how much relationships matter to God?
In the apostle Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, he sought to make them understand how being reconciled to God through Christ Jesus affected all of their relationships. We can understand how being reconciled to God through Christ Jesus affects our relationships.
Below is an automated transcript of this messageGood morning, church. It’s good to see all of you here and get to be with all of you that are watching online this morning. We welcome you!
We are in a series called, “What Really Matters?”; we’re asking this question as we reopen America and as we get back to whatever normal is these days. We’re asking this question, “What Really Matters?,” and do we need to put everything back in place in our business and all the things we were once doing as we slow our lives down? Perhaps it would be a good time, as we put life back together, whatever that looks like, that we should probably consider what really matters. Do we really need the things that we’ve been saying? Why are they so important in our lives?
We get this series from the theme verse found in Philippians1:10 where Paul is writing this. He says, Philippians 1:10 (NLT) “For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.” Paul was praying for the church at Philippi that they would learn to focus on what really matters. There’s things that you have to say, I’m not going to worry about that. I’m going to focus on what really matters in view of eternity, in view of the fact that Christ will return someday. We want to focus on that now.
In previous weeks, and we’re at week three of this series, we’ve asked the question, “Does faith matter?” We’ve said, “yes;” that’s the thing that matters most. Our faith in Jesus Christ, that’s number one. And then, last week we said, “What about purpose?” If you believe that Jesus is your Creator and your Redeemer, then He should be the one that tells you what your purpose in life is. And so, we talked about that last week. You find your identity, you find out “who you are and Whose you are,” and what you want to do with your life. We talked about that last week .
Now, this week we’re asking this question about relationships. Do relationships matter? We believe that relationships really, really matter. Relationships are among those things that matter most now. As we’re looking at our world today, are you overwhelmed by the hatred, the violence, the rioting and the disagreements? Are you overwhelmed by all of this? As you look at the news, which is constantly troubling, it’s almost like we forgot Covid 19. We’ve moved onto a new topic that’s overwhelming in our country today. Why can’t we all just get along? What’s going on? Where is this coming from? Such disunity and you know it may be for you more than a news media outlet delivering news to you. It’s disturbing. It may be more than how social media that is getting us all worked up.
For you, it might be an actual relationship. It might be that what’s going on in our country today is affecting how you get along with your neighbors. It might be that as you talk to your neighbors you wonderwhat to say, especially because you don’t know if this person’s from this political party or this position or whatever. We’re kind of like walking through a minefield and we don’t know where the mines are that could blow our legs off as we’re just trying to think through this.
Maybe it’s affecting your relationship with your neighbors. Maybe it’s affecting your relationship with the person at work in the next cubicle. I don’t know how to talk about this. I think it would be better if we just don’t talk about it. Maybe it’s affecting even your family and friends. You might have posted something online that you thought, well, I’m gonna really say this, or I thought this was an interesting article and I copied this, and now I’ve got 1000 people that are all telling me what’s wrong with it. So now I guess I’m just afraid to say anything. Or maybe you’re here today and you’ve not done that. You’ve said, I’m just going to be silent, and now you’re being judged for being silent and you should speak out. Maybe, that’s kind of how it is for you, and you might consider how that’s even doubly so or maybe ten times more.
If you’re a pastor and you’re a public figure, there are people on this side, whatever this side is, that says you should be talking like this, and then there are people on this side who also love Jesus and go to your church, so you should be talking more about this. And then, there are those who wonder, Why aren’t you talking? May I say, it would be impossible to navigate this, with any sense of certainty, without Jesus. But with Jesus, I begin to care nothing for what they think nor what they think. I only care what He thinks.
How about you? Are you wondering where God is in all of this? Where is God right now in our country? What’s going on? Where’s God right now in this conversation? Does He care about the brokenness of our world? Does He care about the brokenness in our relationships, and if He does, how do we hear from Him?
Well, it just so happens He sent us this love letter, and it’s timeless. His word is always applicable, if we will listen with the ears of faith and believe He will speak to our very situation. Do you believe that?
Today, I want us to look at this letter from Paul. It’s the second letter that Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, and in this letter, he sought to make them understand how being reconciled to God, through Jesus Christ, affected all of their relationships. And I believe today that, if you would be among those who were reconciled to God through Christ, it would affect how you view other people. It would affect how you view yourself and it will affect how you view God. It will change your regard in all of those relationships. Your vertical and all of your horizontal relationships will be affected by this question, “Are you reconciled to God ?”
We’re going to look at this text and we’ll see three ways how our relationships matter to God and how He wants to change the way we regard them. Let’s look at the Scripture. This is the second letter to the Corinthians from the apostle Paul. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 (ESV) “16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This is God’s word.
So we have a preliminary issue that we must cover before we can dig in on the three ways that being reconciled to God affects our relationships. Here’s the preliminary issue. Let’s look at these verses. What’s the big idea right here? One way to do that is to look at the words. Is there a repeating word here that would give us the theme? Do you see a repetitive word? It’s the word, “reconciled, reconcile, reconciling, reconciliation.” It’s in there five times, sometimes in the verb, sometimes at the participle and sometimes it’s a noun. But it’s the same word, “reconciled.”
If we want to understand how being reconciled to God affects our relationships, we must first understand what reconciliation means. What does it mean to be reconciled to God? So, let’s “unpack” this word. It’s important that we understand the word.
The old word in the Greek originally meant, “the exchanging of coins for something of value.” So it had the idea of an exchange. It came to mean more than that. But it still retains that old meaning.
Those of you, that are older, will remember this item that used to be called a checkbook? Do you remember a thing called a checkbook? You would get this paper statement in the mail. Do you remember the mail? There was a mailbox and a mailman. The mail would come to you and you would receive a statement from the bank. You would reconcile your checkbook to this bank statement so that you had an agreement. We still use it in the sense of being reconciled or in agreement in our finances. It has retained that word.
In terms of salvation, it’s a salvation word. It tells us something about the atonement and how God makes us right with Himself. And so, the word, reconciliation, retains the idea of exchange, except it’s so much more here. It’s the idea of being changed from the status of hostility to harmony with God, from the status of adversary to allie; even more than that, adoption.
The idea of exchange might best be seen on the hill called GolGotha, which is the place of the skull, where Jesus was crucified between two thieves. We see here, an intersection between God’s justice and God’s love. God’s justice had to be satisfied because He’s a holy God and when we sin, and we have all sinned. In other words, we have all fallen short of God’s righteousness. Sin, in the Bible, begins with an attitude of rebellion that says, I will do it my way rather than Your way. You know, when you think of sin, you might be thinking of this bad thing or that bad thing, and yes, it is that. But, it begins with an attitude that says, I will do it my way, myself, rather than your way, Creator who made me for Your own self. I’ll do it my way. This is how sin begins and it offends God. God is the offended party. His justice, then, demands that sin be judged because He cannot allow sin because He’s righteous. Because He made us and He loves us, He sent Jesus to come, and He exchanges Jesus for us. Jesus, who is righteous, came and offers His righteousness in exchange for our sinfulness. Jesus says that I’ll take your sin upon Myself and I’ll give You my righteousness if you believe in Me.
Did you see, in verse twenty-one, where Paul is giving us the sense of the word, reconciliation? There’s an exchange, he says, “21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,for our sake…” He was perfect. Yet, he took all of my sins past, present and future and all of your sins, past, present and future, upon Himself. He, Who knew no sin, became sin, so that in Him, in Christ, we might become the righteousness of God. This is the great exchange. This is reconciliation with God, that when you believe in Christ, He takes your sin in exchange for His righteousness. He takes your separation from God and offers you His adoption as sons and daughters of God. That’s why He cries on the cross, “My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?” That was the moment where he was experiencing your separation and my separation from the Father so that we could have oneness with the Father. He offers His eternal life and He died our death so that we can have His life. So, this is the great exchange. He took our sin and offers righteousness. He took our separation and offers His adoption into the family. He took our death so that we could have His life. This is reconciliation.
There’s only one command in the passage today. It’s found in verse 20, “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Are you reconciled to God? You can’t do it yourself. You can only receive it because it was a debt too great for us to pay. To be reconciled to God means that I accept that He has offered Jesus to me in exchange so that I might be made right with God. If this is true for us now, we can move forward and talk about the implications of how that causes us to regard our relationships differently from now on.
Do you see it in verse 16? “From now on…” From what? From that moment when we’ve been reconciled with God through Christ. Am I in the right room? Are you reconciled, people? Paul is reaching across 2000 years as he wrote this letter to the church at Corinth. And he knew he had a mixed multitude. He knew, even in the church, there were those who were reconciled and those who were not. I’m preaching to you today and I’m preaching to you at home. First, be sure that you are reconciled to God. It’s not a self help course that you can take because it’s a price too high to pay, but Christ has already paid it.
Are you right with God? Have you been reconciled to God, “from now on?” A. T. Robertson, in his consideration of the Greek, writes this, “From the time that we gained this view of Christ’s death for us.” From the time we saw that God loved us so much, that He gave us Christ. From then on, from that time on, we have no longer viewed reality through the old lense. Okay, now that we know what it means to be reconciled, we must, each of us, answer the question, Am I reconciled to God? What are the implications? How does it change the way I think about myself and other people?
Let’s look at the text again. Let’s look at the first way how being reconciled to God affects our relationships:
1. It changes how we regard others. If we’re reconciled with God, if we’re right with God through Jesus Christ , it changes how we regard others. Look at verse 16, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. ” What does it mean to regard someone according to the flesh? What does that mean? The flesh is often a substitute word for the old nature. Sometimes it’s called the old nature, the flesh is a worldly point of view. The NLT says this, “So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view.” “The way the world sees us” is another way to describe this, we no longer evaluate. We no longer regard other people according to the outwards or the worldly view of things.
What are the implications here? Why is this timely for us today? Do you regard people according to their skin color? Do you regard people according to their accent? Do you regard people according to whether they’re rich or poor, how they’re dressed, what car they drive, what neighborhood they live in or what country they come from?. Do you regard people according to the flesh? If you still do, Paul says to be reconciled to God, because if you still regard people according to the outward, you must go back to the root problem: Are you reconciled to God?
Do you understand what I’m saying? If you’re made right with God, you no longer see color, not in the sense of difference. You see it in the sense of beauty; in the sense that God loves variety. Don’t ask God to do an encore. He doesn’t do them. Everything He does is an original and so are you. He wants people from every nation, tongue and tribe in His kingdom. He loves variety. He loves diversity. He loves these things. But He doesn’t want you to judge one another.
Paul, says that from the moment we understood, from the moment we were reconciled to God, from that moment, we no longer viewed other people according to outward, worldly points of view.
The media is in business to make money. They’re not in business to tell you the truth. There are broken people in business to make money, and their editors understand that blood sells, trouble sells, chaos sells and war sells. If they can’t stir up trouble that way to sell something, then they’ll figure out something else. Okay, let’s label them this and then this. And then let’s let’s make them fight. Even if they’ve never met each other.
What are you talking about, pastor? I’ve been in the media before. I’ve been interviewed. I still remember, when I first became a pastor, I was so naive. You know , the newspaper called me and asked my opinion on something. I won’t get into it, but then they immediately called someone from a different denomination, a professor at Barton, and interviewed that person and used me as a strong man. What do you think of this guy’s opinion? And then, they put it in the paper. That really hurt. I didn’t know they were going to do that to me. I thought they really wanted to know my opinion, But they were setting me up to sell papers. I’ve been wise since then. Where is this article headed? What’s your motive for writing this? You get interviewed and it can still go the wrong way.
Maybe, someone here is a journalist, and I think journalism, in its purest form, is a profitable and valuable profession. I am not preaching about journalism . No, I’m preaching about how we regard one another. We regard one another through a new lense. It’s not through the lens of media, which is a worldly lens. It’s not through the lens of the old self, which is the way maybe your parents viewed the world or the way your grandparents did, because we’re all affected by how we were brought up. We all know words for each other that are not good; words that we heard from a grandparent or from a parent. We’re to put those things away and we’re to no longer regard one another according to outward things.
Now, I know some of you are sitting here, thinking, I wish he would go farther. Some are sitting here thinking, I think he’s gone far enough. I would remind you, I’m preaching from God’s word.
Paul says, “We no longer regard one another according to the flesh.” What does he mean? He says that before he became a Christian, he was a persecutor of the Saints. He thought Jesus was the enemy because he thought He was an impostor, who was leading Jewish people to think He was the Messiah. Paul was a lawyer; he studied under the great Gamaliel, the rabbi in Jerusalem. Paul was so zealous for Judaism that he became a persecutor of believers. He stood and approved the murder and execution, by stoning, of the first Christian martyr, Stephen. He was headed to Damascus to get him some more Christians because he hated them. So, he hated Christ. Paul used to regard Christ according to the flesh. But then, he encountered Christ on the road to Damascus and he said he regarded Him, according to the flesh, no longer.
Maybe you’re here today, and you would say, No, I never regarded Jesus the way Paul did. I think he’s a good man. I think he was a great moral teacher. Well, then, you’re not far removed from Paul. You’re still regarding Him according to the flesh, because Jesus said, “I am.” Which is saying, “I am God.” “He who has seen Me, has seen the Father.” He says to Philip, in John 14:9 (ESV) “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” I and the Father are one. If you want to get to the Father, you must come through Me. Jesus said, in John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is what Jesus claimed. You can’t make Him a moral teacher. He never claimed to be that; He claimed to be the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
Do you still see Jesus according to the flesh? If you still see Jesus according to flesh, then you’ll see others according to the flesh, which means you’ll see differences. We were all made by one God. There’s only one race, the human race and we have this in common. We’re all sinners in need of a Savior.
Do you still regard others according to the flesh? Why is Paul being so hard on the church in Corinth? Why is he bringing this to bear upon them? Well, they were a lot like Americans. Apparently, the church of Corinth was in this city called Corinth, which was a relatively new city. It had been a Greek city, but the Romans had completely destroyed it, and they had started giving out land to freedmen. Now, the freedmen were made free from slavery as a reward. They had served in the Roman military and so they would be given land and their freedom when they retired. And so there were a lot of retired Roman soldiers living in court, and they were also made free because of some other accomplishments where a Roman leader would give them their freedom. And so, currently, it has become like a freedman city. Because it was a port city and it had a lot of of marketplace things coming through, it became wealthy overnight. It became one of the wealthiest cities in all of Rome. And so, this is the city of Corinth.
In his commentary on 2nd Corinthians, David Garland said that this group of people were preoccupied with symbols of social status. He says it was a relatively new Roman colony, and it’s aristocracy was fluid because social mobility was more attainable than it was in other established cities. It sounds like America, where people have the big name and own everything. Corinth was this exciting place where anybody could be well known, and so they became very preoccupied with how you spoke, who’s the most Greek, who’s the most educated and who has the most wealth. Sounds like America a lot, doesn’t it?
And so, Paul, he’s the one who brought the gospel to them. When he shows up, he shows up by himself. He had been beaten and imprisoned. He had been through a lot, soo he wasn’t a lot to look at. But, when he came bringing Christ and he planted the church in Corinth, he began to work down the market next to a couple called Priscilla and Aquila, who owned a tent-making business. And so, he was a bivocational guy, who preached when he wasn’t working. That’s how I planted this church. His partners, Timothy and Silas, show up and they start helping him. So now, he could spend full time as a preacher; that’s how the church started. But then, when Paul leaves, others come teaching and they start being more impressed with them because they were better orators, because they were clothed better and they started thinking less and less of poor old Paul.
Do you know what the name, Paul, means in the Greek? It’s “Paulos;” it means, “little or small.” He wasn’t that much to look at, and he said he wasn’t that great at speaking. But, boy, he was powerful in the Spirit, and so they were starting to put him down.
If you read the first letter to the church of Corinth, it says that some of you are claiming to be followers of Apollo, the sun god. This is not from God because they were more impressed with things of stature.
Paul says that if you’re among the reconciled, if you’re truly reconciled to God, you’ll stop regarding others according to their accent. Boy, it doesn’t sound like you’re from around here, are you? We kid around; we can do that, but I think we’re in a culture right now where we can’t even joke. We should be able to joke, but we have to be careful because sometimes joking is perceived as judging. And so, we judge whether or not someone’s from the north or the south, the east or the west and how they sound and how they dress. This is not the way reconciled people are to live. We are not to judge; we are not to regard them according to the flesh.
Paul, in a prior verse here in the same chapter, in verse 12, Paul says this, 2 Corinthians 5:12 (ESV) “We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart.” Paul is not writing this letter, so they will build him back up again. He wants them to stop judging by outward appearance. That’s his point.
The Lord taught Samuel the Prophet when he was going to anoint the next king. Samuel was looking at this tall, oldest son of Jesse when he should have been looking at the runt of the litter, David. Here’s what God said to Samuel, 1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV) “…for the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” We are to be reconciled; people who look at the heart.
How do we regard others? Here’s what Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Stop the gender wars. Stop the racial wars. Stop all of this nonsense. Paul is saying to the church, “You’re the reconciled ones.” Stop regarding others according to the outward lens; look through the new lens for the reconciled, not our differences, but that Christ loves us so much that He died for us and every other human being, male or female or whatever race or whatever color, is so loved by God that Christ died for them. That’s how we should view each other through the lens of Christ. I love that one. I love that one. I love that one. You must love them too.
James speaks like this when he was correcting those in the church that were given special seating to those who drove up in better chariots. I hope our ushers didn’t see each of you according to the car you drove up in today. If so, give me their names and we’ll check with them to make sure they’re not doing that. Ha, special seating for special cars. James 2:8-9 (NLT) 8 Yes indeed, it is good when you obey the royal law as found in the Scriptures: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 9 But if you favor some people over others, you are committing a sin. You are guilty of breaking the law.” Racism is sin. As my brother, Pastor Ken here in town just down the road at Bethel Baptist has said, “What we have is not a skin problem. We have a sin problem. What we have is not a race problem. We have a grace problem.” We’re not looking at heart issues.
This past Monday morning, I convened a meeting of pastors in my office here. They were from different denominations and different skin colors. Different amounts of melanin in our skin. We got together, and the question we were asking was, “Is racism systemic in Wilson County? Is there evidence of systemic racism in Wilson County?” Mostly, the white brothers for the first hour just listened to our black brothers tell us what they thought, because we really felt that’s what we needed to dio. I thought of three l words that you might find helpful, that I was guided by, and still am: (1) Listen, (2) learn and (3) love. Just listen, because I might not know what I’m talking about. At least I don’t know what they’ve been through. Whoever they are, it doesn’t matter what color they are. And then, learn to be open. Love one another. That’s the new lens; to love one another. We met for over two hours, and I won’t say we came up with an action, other than let’s keep getting together and let’s keep asking, God, what do you want us to do? I would covet your prayers to keep praying for that gathering. We’re convinced that we need more than what the world is doing right now. We need a heart change, not a government you cannot legislate. “Love your neighbor as yourself” is how you lead. You can’t legislate that. It has to be from heart change.
Pastor Chris Greenwood, who is the pastor at Forest Hills Presbyterian Church here in town, is one of my prayer buddies. He was at our meeting Monday. He said something that stuck with me. And so when I was preparing this sermon on Wednesday, I called him and I said, “What was that smart thing you said home Monday? I need that quote from you.” He said, “You’re not gonna put that in the sermon, are you?” I said, “Watch me online; I’m putting it in the sermon.” Here’s what he said, “The sins left, hidden and unaddressed within the church, will eventually be magnified in their culture.” The sins left unattended and unaddressed in the church will eventually be magnified in the culture. Friends, the Bible addresses this. The church has to address it. We can no longer regard others according to the flesh. Why? Because we are the reconciled ones; we are different. We don’t regard others according to the flesh. Where are you at on this today? If you’re not there, I implore you to be reconciled to God.
Here’s the second way that being reconciled to God changes our relationships:
2. It changes how we regard ourselves.
It changes how we look at ourselves. We no longer look in the mirror or look inward, but we look at this mirror (holding up the Bible). The mirror that James calls the word of God is like a mirror. He says in James 1: 23, “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.” God is like a mirror. And so, we look here and we look to see who Jesus says we are, because He not only made us but He redeemed us. And so, we want to know who we are from him. This is the second way we get a new view of ourselves.
Look at verse 17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” There are two Greek words which are translated “new” in the Bible. The first, neos, refers to something just made, but there are others like it. But in this verse, the word is kainos, which means “something just made which is unlike anything else in existence.” We are born again by the Spirit and have the Spirit living within us. We have a new nature.
If you have watched that movie some years ago, “Matrix, Neo is where we get it from the Greek. It means new. I’ve got a Ford Expedition and there’s a whole bunch of them on the road. Maybe five of you in here are driving one. It was new to you when you bought it; this word new is not that word. This word new is new like no other. There’s no other like you. God doesn’t do encores; when He made you knew He made you like no other. That’s the word “new” here. That’s awesome, isn’t it? That’s who you are in Christ. When you’re reconciled to God, you are a new creation. Behold the old you has passed away. Behold, the new you is here. And so from now on, we no longer view others according to the old self, the old flesh. We no longer view ourselves according to the old flesh.
And so, Paul even says, I don’t even judge myself anymore because that belongs to Jesus. So I don’t sit in judgment of myself. I don’t let my old mistakes tie me down. It’s in the past. And, it has something to do with who I am today. It doesn’t imprison me anymore because I’ve been set free. I will not be identified by my sins and addictions. I will be identified by who I am in Christ. That’s my new identity. Who am I? I am loved and so were you. I am loved by God.
Last week we asked, Why did he make us? He made us for His pleasure, it says in the book of Revelation. It pleased him to make us . He made us for Himself. Look at how this affects us. Where does this come from? Where does this new creation come from? In verse 18, it says all of this; all of what? He said, 18 “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” So far, all of this new way of thinking about others, all of this new way of thinking about yourselves, all of this is from God. You can’t earn it. You can’t work for it. You can’t buy a self-help book. It’s from God who, through Christ, reconciled us to Himself. That’s how you get this new way of thinking about yourself and about others. Stop being so hard on yourself; that’s God’s job, and He’s forgiven you of all things through Christ Jesus. So, you’re free.
There’s only two ways to regard others: (1) Do you know Jesus? (2) Do you not know Jesus? Let me tell you about Jesus. You don’t care what they look like, no matter where they come from, it doesn’t matter what language they speak or what color they are. It doesn’t matter if they are rich or poor. Are you far from God or near to God, because if you’re far from God, let me introduce you to Him. It’s that simple, and it straightens everything else out to where you don’t have to worry about the cacophony of all the noise in this world. You can stop listening to that “old self.” You can listen to the new life that’s in you, in the Spirit, and it causes you to keep the great commandment.
Here’s the great commandment. Jesus was asked, “What is the great commandment?” He said to them, in Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV) “37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words , here’s the great commandment. Love God and love others as yourself. If you’re reconciled to God, through the Spirit, He makes it so that you’re able. His love is poured out in you, through the Spirit, so you’re able to love God and you’re able to love others so that He’s making you a reconciling force towards others and you’re able to love yourself.
How do we live then, now that we regard God and others and ourselves with this new lens of love? How do we live? Paul writes in Colossians 3:8-14 (NLT) “8 But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. 9 Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters…”
Some would say to me, right now, and perhaps you are thinking this as we’re here. That’s too high and holy right now. What we’re going to do about this or that or how should we vote for these kinds of things? Here’s what I’m convinced of; if we get this in alignment and do what really matters, those things will work themselves out in us. People want us to connect the dots. Well, that’s God’s job. To do that, you must first be reconciled to God, so that you regard yourself and others in this new way.
Here’s the third way that being reconciled to God changes our relationships:
3. It changes how we respond to our broken world. It changes how we regard others, it changes how we regard ourselves and it changes how we respond to our broken world. The third way is that it changes how we respond to our broken world.
Look at verse 19, “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” He started touching on it all. 18 “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;” Don’t call me the minister. You’re the ministers. I’m an equipper.
Read Ephesians, chapter four; pastors are equippers. Now, I’m a minister too; I have a ministry. But I’m not your minister. I’m Christ’s minister, and so are you. If you’re reconciled, you’re a minister. And don’t get all worried about it or get your chest all puffed out too much. It comes from the Greek word, diákonos, which means servant. That means you’re a slave of Christ; He bought you. You’re His or you’re not because you haven’t given your life to Him yet. But if you have, you have a ministry, and what’s it called? It’s called the ministry of reconciliation.
What’s the ministry of reconciliation? What do we do ? Well, Paul is not finished. Let’s keep looking, verse 18, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;” Here comes verse 19, “that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.” So, we’re ministers with a message.
What is this message? In Christ God has paid for our sins and is no longer “counting” them against those who place their faith in Christ Jesus. Christ died in our place. This message has been “entrusted” to us. You’re free,you are loved and you’re right with God. That’s who we are, has reconciled people. We are ministers and we are messengers. He gave us a ministry and He gave us a message.
And then Paul says, because he’s not finished, verse 19, “….he entrusted to us the message of reconciliation where we know what it is in Christ, we’re forgiven. Therefore, in verse 20, we are ambassadors. We are ministers, messengers and ambassadors. Yes. That’s how we’re to respond to the broken world.
I think I should vote, and you should vote, right? Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s? But render under God what is God’s? You should vote. Vote your conscience. You have been given liberty in this country. I think I should march. I think I should protest. I think I should do this. I think I should write that. Well, go ahead. Just keep thinking what you think you should do, but may I say to you, God’s already told you who you are and what you’re supposed to be doing. That’s what I’m trying to say, and if what you are and what you’re doing right now doesn’t come into alignment with this, I would urge you to be reconciled to God. He is saying there is brokenness all around you, and the strategy is this: Be a minister, a servant of reconciliation. Be peacemakers, not troublemakers. Carry the message of reconciliation.
What’s the message? God loves you and He wants to forgive you. Do you know Jesus? Can I talk to you about Jesus?
Be ambassadors, not of some political point of view or some whatever. Be ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is eternal, because you now have a new citizenship as reconciled people. Do you represent the king? I’m a representative. By the way, have I introduced myself to you? My name is Gary. I represent King Jesus. How about you? I don’t feel worthy to say that, Gary. Neither do I. But, He paid it all and I’ve been counted righteous in Him. I’ve been counted as a son of God in Him. I have been given eternal life, not because of me, but because of Jesus. And therefore I proclaim, I represent King Jesus. How about you? I don’t know what you’re representing. I implore you, with Paul, be reconciled to God. If you’re reconciled to God, you represent King Jesus.
Paul, when he was with the the church in Corinth the first time, he said, in first Corinthians chapter two, “1 When I came to you, (meaning when I came to you the first time,) brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 4 and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Paul is saying,
What’s your response to this broken world? Paul’s response was it’s Christ and Him crucified. Jesus is the one who makes it possible for us to be reconciled to God and having been reconciled to God, to be reconciled to others and to ourselves and to be ministers of his reconciliation to a broken world.
Let’s go back to the first three words in verse 16, “From now on…” I’ve learned that this is the title of the song, the closing number in the 2017 movie, “The Greatest Showman.” I have not seen this movie, but after talking to Pastor Chris this week and talking to my sons, who said, “You haven’t seen that movie, Dad?” I have now because they loaned it to me. It’s a movie, starring Hugh Jackman, who, the movie depicts, or at least gives the background of, P. T. Barnum and how he went from rags to riches. Somewhere along the way, as he became more famous, he became obsessed with reaching a more highbrow, a higher society audience. As a result, he lost sight of the most important things in his life, like his family and his true friends. That’s basically what it’s about.
I watched the movie and I noticed the end of it seemed more like worship than just about anything I’ve seen in a secular movie. It’s not true worship, but it felt close, maybe as high as the world can attain, absent true worshiping Christ. Here is the lyrics to the songs, “From Now On:
I saw the sun begin to dim And felt that winter wind blow cold. A man learns who is there for him When the glitter fades and the walls won’t hold ‘Cause from then, rubble What remains can only be what’s true If all was lost, there’s more I gained ‘Cause it led me back to you
From now on These eyes will not be blinded by the lights From now on What’s waited ’til tomorrow starts tonight, Tonight Let this promise in me start Like an anthem in my heart From now on, From now on
The politicians praised my name But those are someone else’s dreams The pitfalls of the man I became For years and years I chased their cheers The crazy speed of always needing more But when I stop and see you here I remember who all this was for… and
From now on These eyes will not be blinded by the lights From now on What’s waited ’til tomorrow starts tonight, Tonight Let this promise in me start Like an anthem in my heart From now on, From now on
And we will come back home And we will come back home, home again And we will come back home, home again!
Have you decided to live as reconciled from now on? Let it start this day, like an anthem in your heart, beginning today, knowing our home is in heaven and living in such a way that we have aligned our lives, from now on, as reconciled people of God, who are a reconciling force in a lost and dying, broken world. Let’s pray, Father. I pray first for the person in this room that is not reconciled to you . You know who you are. You’re still doing life your way. I pray for you right now. The Holy Spirit is knocking at your heart’s door; that’s Him that is making you tremble. That’s Him who is calling you. Would you answer the door? By faith, pray with me, Dear Father, I believe that Jesus died on the cross for me and that He lives today. I pray that He would come into my life right now and forgive me of my sins and make me the person He wants me to be. I give you my life, Lord Jesus. Make me a child of God. He will do it right now. Others are here today and you count yourself among the redeemed. You count yourself among those reconciled. But you have been regarding others according to the flesh and you’ve been holding those things as more important than your ministry and your message. Would you repent? When we see God’s word and we hear it, it affects our hearts and we are called to change. So, Lord , we repent where we have been racist. Lord, how we have treated someone because of their skin or because of whether they were rich or poor or because of their gender or because of something else outward. We’ve treated them as less than those loved by you. Would you forgive us and help us only to see You and others and even ourselves according to the great love You have given at Calvary. We pray it in Christ’s name, Amen.