Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, March 6, 2016
Reconciled Ambassadors - March 6, 2016 - Fourth Sunday in Lent - Text: 2 Cor. 5:16-21
We are about half way through the Lenten Season. Let me remind you that the purpose of the Lenten Season is to take the time to contemplate our sins and the seriousness of our sins. We see how God views the seriousness of our sins when we look at the passion and the cross of Christ. So serious does God take our sins that Jesus suffered greatly for them. As we contemplate the passion of Christ certainly we contemplate that it was our sins, your sins and my sins that put Jesus on the cross.
Before we get to our text for this morning, let us take a brief look at the other lessons. The Old Testament lesson for this morning might rightly be considered an answer to the question of “how” we are to be ambassadors and that is by giving thanks to the Lord. And why do we give thanks to God, because of His salvation. Indeed, our sin makes God angry and yet, rather than take His anger out on us, He took it out on Jesus so that Jesus suffered God’s just punishment for our sins, for us in our place. Certainly we give thanks and praise to the Lord for His forgiveness and salvation.
Our Gospel lesson for this morning is the account of the prodigal son. This account shows us what great love the father has for his son. Rightly we might put ourselves in either of the brothers shoes. Certainly we are the younger son when we squander the gifts our Lord has to give to us. But, more often than not, as “older” Christians, we are probably more like the older son. We have a difficult time accepting newer Christians into our congregation, because we believe, because of our perceived faithfulness, that we deserve more. Yet in both instances we see what great love the Father has for both His Sons and what great love our Heavenly Father has for us, His children.
Getting to our text for this morning we are reminded that all our good gifts and blessings are indeed gifts and blessings and all this is from God. We read, “16From 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. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (v. 16-19).
The word reconcile is an interesting word. And actually, it is a financial word. I have to admit, I never really thought much about the word reconcile, never even really used the word until I got my first computer checkbook and it asked if I wanted to reconcile my bank account. I never reconciled my account before, although I did attempt to balance my checkbook from time to time, as encouraged by my parents. The word reconcile means that one side of the equation must equal the other side. For my checkbook that means that the deposits must be equal to or be greater than the withdrawals, my checks, otherwise I have a problem. When it comes to God reconciling us, the problem for us is that our deposits are actually zero when it come to paying the price of our sins and the checks we have written, our sins, are beyond our imagination. For God to reconcile us means that He has made a deposit of as much as and even greater than our sins. He has reconciled our account by paying the price that our sins cost, death, indeed, eternal spiritual death, hell. He made us right before Himself, forgiving our sins, through Christ.
The fact that we are reconciled by God means that He paid the price for our sins. This is often stated as He made atonement for our sins. To make atonement means that one makes amends or pays the price for another. Christ made atonement for us. He made amends, He paid the price for us. Christ’s atonement was first an objective atonement, that means that His atonement was accomplished outside of us and was for all people. Jesus made amends, paid the price for the sins of all people of all places of all times. This was the goal, the objective in that no one deserves that He did this and even though some have and may refuse His gift of atonement, it was still accomplished for all.
Christ’s atonement was also a subjective atonement, that is it was meant for me. The fact that Jesus died for all is one thing. What makes His death for all important to me is that He died for me, personally. Even if I were the only person in the world, He would have and He did die for me. While He was alive, He had me in mind. When He took the sins of all people on Himself, He had me and my sins in mind. When He suffered on the cross for all sin, He had me in mind. When He died on the cross He had me in mind. He made amends for my sins. He paid the price for my sins.
And so we are recreated. The old is gone. We are no longer what we were before, that is we are no longer only complete lost and condemned sinners, but we are not yet what we will be in heaven, completely and only saints. We are somewhere along the road. While we continue living in this world we live being at the same time sinner and saint.
Thus, Paul reminds us, we regard no one according to the flesh, that is we no longer look at the outside of a person, instead we look into the heart of a person. This is especially true concerning Christ. Before his conversion, Paul viewed Jesus as merely a man. Now that he has been reconciled he knows Jesus as true God and true man, even the Savior of the world and his own Savior.
All this is from God (v. 18) who does all and gives all. Notice, Paul takes himself completely out of the picture. In just the same way we take ourselves completely out of the picture. We have done nothing and we do nothing to reconcile ourselves to God. It has all been taken care of for us by God Himself. He lived the perfect life demanded of us. He took our sins and He paid the price for our sins, all our sins, the ones we have committed and the ones we have yet to commit. He gives us faith. He gives us forgiveness of sin. He gives us life, even eternal life and salvation.
Our response of faith, that is our response for all that our Lord has done for us is that we are ambassadors. Paul says, “20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (v. 20-21). Our response is that we are made ambassadors. An ambassador is one who represents another. We represent Christ. How do we represent Christ? Well, sometimes we represent Him well and other times we misrepresent Him. Anytime we are not living as a reconciled child of God, we misrepresent Him. Anytime we speak ill of this congregation or members of this congregation or anytime we do anything that is not in the best interest of this congregation and the members of this congregation we are misrepresenting Him. Anytime we speak evil of anyone, even if it is the truth, anytime we fail to explain everything in the kindest way possible, we are misrepresenting Him.
It is only as God has His way with us, that is, it is only as the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace works in and through us that we are ambassadors living lives of faith. Again, this is not something we do on our own, this is something we do only as the Lord has His way with us through His means of grace.
Thus, as ambassadors, the most important thing we do is that we speak the Word of God. We speak the Word of God, not of our own, but on His authority. We speak the Word of God as He gives us even fills us with His Word through His means of grace. We speak the Word of God as He moves us. And we are ambassadors as we live lives of faith, that is as our actions speak for and attest to the faith that is in our hearts, the faith that He has given to us and that He nourishes in us. As you have heard me describe before, we are ambassadors as we live our lives as priest, offering our lives as living sacrifices for Lord, always being ready to give an answer for the hope we have in Jesus as our Savior. And we have God’s authority to speak and His promise that when the time comes He will give us the very words He would have us to speak on His behalf.
What Does This Mean? First and foremost this means that we sin, and we need to be reminded of our sin. We daily sin much. We sin in thought, word and deed. We sin sins of omission, not doing the things God would have us to do, not living the life He would have us to live, and sins of commission, doing the things He forbids and commands us not to do. We sin and it is our sin that brought Jesus to earth. It was our sin that brought Jesus suffering. It was our sin, your sin and mine, which cost Jesus His life. And so, it is our sin which places us at the foot of the cross. When we look at the cross, that is when we seriously look at the cross, we do not see a pretty fashion statement. We do not see something that is simply a reminder that we are Christians. When we look at the cross we see an instrument of death, even an instrument of pain, suffering and torture. And when we look at the cross we see what great love our Lord has for us, a love that moved Him to actively, without hesitation, take our sins upon Himself and to pay the price, suffering all, even death for us, in our place.
The fact of the matter is that Christ never sinned. He was tempted, even beyond what we may be tempted, beyond what we might think or imagine, yet He never sinned. And although He never sinned, He made Himself sin for us. He took our sins upon Himself. And He paid the price for our sins, for all our sins and for the sins of all people, of all places of all times. He suffered eternal spiritual death, complete and utter separation from God the Father, He suffered hell for us, in our place.
Our response of faith is to live lives of faith. This is not something we do on our own. As a matter of fact, God never expects us to do this on our own. Remember Paul’s words in Ephesians when he tells us that “we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). We are Christ’s ambassadors created by Him, redeemed by Him and now walking as His ambassador being directed by Him.
What a great God we have and what wonderful words from Him through Paul this morning. We are privileged first and foremost to revel in God’s forgiveness earned, paid for and given to us by Christ because of His great love for us. We are privileged to be ambassadors for Christ because He makes us so. As always, God is the prime mover. He does and He gives and we are done to and we are given to. He gives us faith. He takes our sins and gives us forgiveness. He gives us the gift and promise of eternal life in heaven. And while we remain in this world He gives to us the privilege and responsibility to represent Him as His ambassadors. And all this He does out of His great love for us. What a great God, what a loving God we have. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.