Sorry for not posting in a while – could use preggy brain as an excuse, but really life just got in the way of blogging!.
Here is my notes from the sermon at our Noordhoek Gathering yesterday: For those who were not there you will have to imagine you were give a Ferrero Rocher at the end – yum yum 🙂
What are you passionate about? What topic do you love so much that you come across as obsessed and everyone knows – if you want to know about football, talk to that guy. I love cooking (& eating) – I love reading recipe books and sharing recipes with friends. Ramos once said when we were newly married that it is possible to eat the same meal more than once. There is a guy in church who sells Herbalife – he is passionate. When I first came to the church I was told – that’s so and so – he is a great guy, just don’t mention Herbalife!
Paul was obsessed with Jesus and telling people about Him – he dedicated his life to it. He had gone from a Christian Killer to hunting down people to convert them and some people did not like his methods. I imagine if we met Paul today he would be a pretty fiery preacher – he never was one to beat around the bush. I don’t think he would ever have made it as a diplomat. In that passage we are looking at today Paul explains his passion to the Corinthian church and he makes not apologies for it. He says this is why I share the news about Jesus and I cannot stop.
- Compelled to share about Jesus
2 Corinthians 5:11-15 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
Paul was under criticism for his techniques – for some people persuasion is negative – that they were pressing people to follow Jesus. Paul says – okay you don’t like my technique but this is important – this is life or death – I’m not going to tiptoe around political correctness. He has not set out to win admirers and he says he is right before God in this matter.
He even goes as far as saying if we look mad to you it is for the sake of God!
“The most famous ship of all time is possibly the Titanic, the supposedly unsinkable ship that went down on its maiden voyage. Many movies have been made and many books written about the fateful journey. Few will include the story of Scottish evangelist John Harper. Harper was a passenger on the Titanic. In 1912 Harper was travelling to Chicago to take up his appointment as Pastor of Moody Church. He had his daughter Nana on board with him. His wife had died a few years earlier. When the Titanic struck the iceberg and began to sink he put Nana into a lifeboat and then ran throughout the ship yelling “Women, children, and unsaved into the lifeboats!” When the ship finally went down he had already given his lifejacket to another passenger. Survivors report that to the very end Harper was witnessing to anyone who would listen. One survivor recalls clinging to one of the ships spars when Harper floated near him. “Man, are you saved?” cried Harper.
“No I’m not” replied the man. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved” pleaded Harper. The waves carried Harper away and brought him back a little later. “Are you saved now?” asks Harper. “No, I cannot honestly say that I am” says the man. Again Harper pleads with him, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved”. Shortly afterward Harper went down. The man who survived was one of only six people rescued, but in a public meeting four years later, recounting this episode he said “There, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed. I am John Harper’s last convert.” (www.storiesforpreaching.com )
- Are you compelled to share Christ?
What makes a man like Paul or like John Harper devote their lives to telling people about Jesus? Paul says it is because he has seen what it is to be without Jesus. He has also seen the love of God, experienced His forgiveness so therefore he is compelled to share with others. It is truly in seeing and understanding what you have been saved from – the wrath of God, punishment from sin, separation from God – that motivates a person, spurs them on, makes them passionate to share the good news.
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
What about us? I know I’m guilty of not being passionate about sharing the gospel with people who do not know Jesus. Too often we give the excuse that we are not all evangelists. Well maybe you don’t have the gift of evangelism but we are all called to be witnesses. Acts 1:8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
- What puts you off sharing Christ?
Maybe you are worried what people will think of you, of the reaction you will get, or that you think you won’t be able to share you faith in a way that people will understand. 13 If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
Stop worry about what reaction you will get or how people will think of you – keep your focus on what God has done for you and the rest is up to him.
Maybe you are afraid that people who knew you before you were a Christian will discredit you? Paul could easily have had that fear? But instead he admits that he once thought wrongly about Jesus, but now things are different
- A new creation
1 Corinthians 5:16-17 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
What does it mean that Paul had though of Christ in a worldly way? For him it was probably tied to the Jewish belief that the Messiah/ the Christ would not just be a religious figure but would also be a political figure. Remember Israel was occupied for many year – under Greek and Roman rules. There were many who thought the Messiah would lead them to a political triumph and overthrow their enemies.
I don’t know how you used to regard Christ when you were not a Christian? Maybe you thought of gentle Jesus, meek and mild – some people look and see the crucifixion and how he took the punishment and declare him to be weak. Others look and see a good teacher but they don’t see God.
Whatever you thought of Jesus in the past it does no matter – if you have become a Christian the old has gone the new has come. You are a new creation. You see with God there is truly a fresh start – a wiping the slate clean. He does not dredge up the past or hold grudges the way we do.
Psalm 103:11-12 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; 12 as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As Christians, we are new creations: The old life of sin has been defeated and destroyed by repentance, the old nature has been conquered by crucifixion, and now we stand as new creations. We have new goals, values, desires, attitudes, thoughts, actions, new everything.
- You past does not matter, it is only who you are in Jesus
Galatians 6:15 Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.
- You get a fresh start with God
Ephesians 4:22-24 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
- Recreated to be an ambassador
You have not only been recreated you have also been commissioned and given a job – to be a reconciliator. Reconciliation is not always easy: One New Year’s Eve at London’s Garrick Club, British actor Frederick Lonsdale was asked by Seymour Hicks to reconcile with a fellow member. The two had quarreled in the past and never restored their friendship. “You must,” Hicks said to Lonsdale. “It is very unkind to be unfriendly at such a time. Go over now and wish him a happy New Year.” So Lonsdale crossed the room and spoke to his enemy. “I wish you a happy New Year,” he said, “but only one.” But thankfully God is much better at reconciliation than we are:
2 Corinthians 5:18-21 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
- God has taken the initiative in reconciling through Christ
Paul was the only writer to use this word reconciliation in the New Testament. It would have been common amongst the Greeks and Romans – i.e. the non Jewish folk he was talking too. It was common to talk about man having to reconcile with the gods. This meant trying to win back their favour by all kinds of tasks and trying appease them. Paul turns this concept on it head by point out that God is the one who does the reconciling, not us. He is the one who took the first steps in mending the relationship. He made the first move, He took the initiative in sending Jesus. Romans 5:8- 10 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!
Having been reconciled to God it is given to us as a task to help others do the same. As such you are called an ambassador.
- We are entrusted with this message
20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
That is quite a fancy title – makes you think of some swanky events and bigwigs hobnobbing over important world affairs. But simply it means you are God’s representative. It is like we stand up and say hey – I came this way safely you can do the same. As Paul pointed out earlier if we understand the impact and the seriousness of the message we are carrying will be prepared to risk our reputation and what others think of us and dedicate ourselves to sharing the message.
So comes the questions to each one of us, including myself. What are you passionate about? Do you fully grasp the depth and breadth of God’s love for you that He was prepared to send His son to die and take the punishment for our sins so that we could be reconciled with Him? How do you respond to God’s initiative? Have you grasped how amazing it is to be reconciled with God? Will you let that amazingness drive you and bubble over into every area of your life so that it overflows into you telling others? What kind of ambassador are you?
Don’t let you past or anyone from it tell you otherwise – God has chosen you and His ambassador.