Devotional Thought of the Day:
18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” 21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 (NLT) 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (TEV)
319 My God, how easy it is to persevere when we know that You are the Good Shepherd, and that we—you and I…—are sheep belonging to your flock! For we know full well that the Good Shepherd gives his whole life for each one of his sheep. (1)
Interesting thought, speaking the truth in love requires that you love the one you are speaking to….Which means it costs you as much as it costs them when they don’t hear you. (a thought I etched on Facebook recently)
The church has been appointed to a task, chosen for a specific role and ministry in this world. All of the vocations that exist, exist to see this work of God, accomplished in and through us.
Paul calls it the ministry of reconciliation, and it requires great sacrifice and great love. It is one, when we do not see it fulfilled, should bring us to tears, even as Paul cried for his fellow Jews who turned their back on God, and refused God’s grace, refused God’s actions reconciling them to himself.
It’s odd, if anyone had the right to claim he was persecuted for righteousness sake, it was Paul. Yet he wept over his persecutors. he wept over the division between them and God. He even offered up his life, that God would reconcile them to Himself.
As Paul found out, there were times of division, both with those who abandoned God, and within the household of God. Peter knew this as well, yet he would write
15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. 1 Peter 3:15-16 (NLT)
Again, the focus isn’t just about being right – but how that is communicated, how we go to those we consider lacking in that hope, in the trust in that grace, in that knowledge. Realizing that our goal isn’t to win an argument, or create more division, but to see all reconciled to Christ, and therefore to each other.
Such is the nature of our ministry, of our life in Christ.
That is where our joy is found… in seeing all united in Christ Jesus.
Lord have such mercy on us…
(1) Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 1276-1279). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.
We Speak for Christ
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
† In His Name †
As we speak for God, may we speak through the knowledge of the grace, the mercy and love which reconciled us to God, as we bring others the message of reconciliation!
We Speak for Christ, but what are we saying?
The sermon title you see before you, “we speak for Christ” is one which is an incredible burden, but it is something we need to keep in our mind, not just during the sermon, and the worship service, but every moment of the day.
You see if we claim to others that we speak for God as we talk about His will, as we talk about grace, as we invite them to church, then we need to realize that often, they will judge God by what they hear from our voices at other times as well.
I was talking to a lady this week, she was talking about why she and her husband were considering leaving the big church they were going to, and thinking about looking for a smaller church. In the process, she told me about the church that they went to before the mega-church. I asked her about why they decided to check out the big church in the first place, and she told me of the event that soured her husband on their original church some ten to fifteen years ago.
She related how they had gone there one morning, in her husband’s older truck. As they parked the truck in the parking lot in front of the church, a man came out, and asked them to move the truck and park it somewhere else. The man was concerned with what kind of image would be given, if beat up cars were in plain view in the parking lot.
The man moved the truck, to a different church and its parking lot where he and his wife have been going to that church ever since. She did promise that upon their return from vacation, they might return to the church here. You see, this church was where their children were baptized and confirmed.
It is a challenge for us to do what we are told in Colossians 4:6, 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. Colossians 4:6 (NKJV)
It is even harder sometimes, for our words to be Christ’s as we respond to those who’ve sinned against us. It is hard for us to forgive those whose words may not have been as gracious to us, for in that same way we are tempted not to be gracious.
How we see them, determines how we speak to them
I’ve joked once or twice about not putting Christian bumper stickers on my car, because I don’t want my driving patterns to reflect badly on God. There is some truth in that, and the same thing when not thinking about representing God, we step on our tongues and insert our foot in our mouths. There is one thought – maybe we just never claim to talk for God? Then people wouldn’t blame God for our failings – right?
But then, we are ignoring the multitude of scriptures that talk about the people of God, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, being God’s voice to call people out of darkness and sin, to share in His peace. We need a better solution than just being quiet about our faith, our of fear of misrepresenting God.
It is found in the first verse of our epistle reading, St. Paul writes,
“16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!
Most of our problem, controlling our tongue is because we look at people as un-redeemed, or not worth our time, or for that matter, God’s time. Maybe we are snobs, and think others are below us, or that they are just different, or maybe, even as we look around this room, we think – “thank God I’m not like that sinner…”
How we interact with people is based often in how we “see” them, how we perceive their value to us, to society. It isn’t just the generations represented in this room – it’s been a problem even back to the time of Christ…
For some, including Paul who wrote this letter, saw Jesus as illegitimate, as an outcast, as an wandering religious kook – who, because of a lack of education, couldn’t possibly understand the deepest part of the Jewish faith… to the extent Paul really persecuted the people whose trust was in Christ. Paul would realize Jesus was more than homeless religious fanatic… that he was the Son of God, and what it mean – that Jesus would die on the cross.
The difference comes into play when we stop looking at them based on human standards of value, but understand how Christ sees every man, woman and child that has ever existed, and when we consider their value to Him.
How does Christ see them?
In verse 17, we are told that anyone who belongs to Christ isn’t just waiting to become something else – they have become something new already. It’s passages like this – and the discussion between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus that we get the concept of being born again, the washing of rebirth that we commonly call baptism.
Which Is how we are to see each other – as people whose value is not measured according to value on earth, but rather value to God. Who thought enough of us, who valued us enough, that He reconciled the world to himself – He brought us back – He reconciled us, He cleanse us, the ways scripture describes this incredible work we given “church words” like justified and sanctified, ransomed and redeemed, and the one in this passage – reconciled.
As in reconciling a checkbook, or a set of accounts, where not only is everything accurate, but it is the way it should be – every negative entry accounted for and every error corrected. Where there is nothing left to devalue what is, by God’s account – priceless and precious. Where after everything is accounted for – and everything is checked – it all balances….
And this miracle – the way that every sin has been paid for – Paul describes in verse 21:
21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
That is Christianity simply put – God loved the people He created, to the extent He has taken care of our sin. He values us, our company, our presence, He values us enough to let Jesus bear all of our debt on the cross. All of it.
That is how, then we are to relate to each other, with the same value as God has for us…. We are to each other as people God cared enough that Jesus would die for them.
The offer on the table…which we take to them
That then leads us back to the original concept – that people base their perception of God on how we treat them, of the things we say, and don’t say…
That we are His ambassadors, given the task of reconciling all people to God. That we have the responsibility to plead with those who don’t know Jesus, who don’t know the love of the father, to come back, just like the prodigal does, when he remembers how his father treated all of his people.
To see it through – we need to look at others, as those God would die for, for indeed He did. We need, for our own deeper understanding of God’s love for us, to realize it extends to all – that He is not willing that any should perish, but that all would be reconciled – that’s why Christ came to reconcile us all – so that all children of God could always come home.
That Is the glorious message we have been tasked with, the message we, as Christ’s ambassadors are tasked to deliver… and no other message then this… that all would come back to God…
That they would all know His love…
The peace of God that is beyond all understanding, the peace in which we are kept, for we dwell, reconciled in and by Christ Jesus. AMEN!