6/25/2018 8:59:26 AM
A Christian Case Study - June 24, 2018
Pastor Joel Leyrer
Text: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
Dear Friends in Christ, a not uncommon plot line in books and movies has to do with an individual seeking their lost identity. Usually some sort of amnesia is involved. An accident or a bump on the head or another traumatic event has wiped away all previous knowledge of who the person is, and suddenly this person’s life becomes a blank slate. The rest of the story revolves around the person trying to pick up clues and bits of information in the attempt to reconstruct their life, all along hoping that something they learn along the way will trigger them back into knowing who they are. Let’s pretend that each of us is the person in such a story. Let’s pretend that as soon as each of us walked through the door of the church today we were suddenly hit with a case of spiritual amnesia. All we know is that we are here, and the reason we are here is because we are obviously Christians. Beyond that, we’ve forgotten everything. Well, the portion of Scripture we have before us today is all we need to reclaim our spiritual identity. In fact, it is such a thorough treatment of who and what we are that we might call the words of the Apostle Paul, A CHRISTIAN LIFE CASE STUDY
Today we’re going to move around a bit within our lesson and organize our thoughts around three important points Paul makes. Each point helps us remember who and what we are as followers of Christ.
We’ll start by considering the first and last verse together, because they pretty much bookend everything else Paul says in the middle: 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died….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.
What is the driving force behind each individual Christian? What motivates and compels Christians to live the life they do? Paul’s answer is simple. “Christ’s love.”
We tend to think of love as an emotion, which it certainly is. But it’s more than that. Love is action. And that’s what we see in “Christ’s love.” In his first letter the Apostle John defines it this way: “This is love; not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Paul is taking us right back to the very heart of Scripture and the very essence of the Christian faith; the Gospel message. But before we explain what this means, there is something else we must remember about ourselves: We are sinners who daily break God’s commands and demands. This part of our lives is not hard to piece together, and evidence is plentiful.
For example, we get angry when we should be kind, and often we are timid when we should be angry. We don’t always treat people – especially those closest to us – with proper love and respect. We minimize our own faults and shortcomings and magnify what we consider to be faults in others. Despite being showered with blessings richly and daily, we grumble and complain and sometimes believe God isn’t treating us fairly. We could go on.
We may see those as minor shortcomings, but God doesn’t. He takes them personally. He sees them as direct acts of rebellion against the expectations he has clearly laid out for us in his Word. In his justice, such lawlessness and rebellion cannot go unpunished – and as Paul tells us in Romans, “the wages of sin is death.”
So, Jesus paid that price. On the cross. “One died for all, and therefore all died” – in the sense that God sees the death of Jesus as the satisfactory punishment for the sins of all people. Yes, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
This is the blessed Gospel message. Although we are sinners, because of Jesus Christ we are forgiven sinners, righteous in the eyes of God. All is right. Paul says we are reconciled to God, meaning we are at peace with God – now and forevermore.
And that relationship with God is the only place we can and will find peace. Because God, who created us, hard-wired us with a longing for such a relationship. Perhaps you recall the famous quote from St. Augustine on the opening page of his autobiography: “O Lord, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, O Lord, until they find their rest in you.”
Jesus Christ provides that rest.
So, the first point Paul makes is this: A Christian is one who is at peace with God through the sacrificial love demonstrated by Jesus Christ on the cross.
And that changes our perspective. This is the second great truth Paul reminds us of: 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.16 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!
A few related thoughts here. The first is that faith in Christ alters our lives to such a radical degree that we are called “new creations.”
Maybe you remember from history the name Nicholas Copernicus. He was among the first to understand that the earth was not the center of the universe, but that it revolved around the sun. Such thinking was revolutionary and changed the world. Transfer that to the spiritual world.
In a world without Christ, everything centers around oneself. The individual is the center of his or her own universe. But in a world with an understanding of Jesus Christ – who he is and what he has done to bring us peace with God – he (the “Son”) becomes the new center of our personal universe. The radical result is that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
One practical ramification of the Christ-centered life is this: 16 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.
Paul is no doubt thinking of his former way of life. At one time he saw Jesus as a threat and an interferer to his way of life. Many see him the same way today. But that was before Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and changed him into a new creation. Everything was different from that time on. Including the way Paul looked at other human beings.
That same truth applies to every Christian: “we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” The world makes distinctions by age and race and ethnicity and wealth and pedigree. Based on this the world looks up to some and down on others.
Paul reminds us that is not a Christian approach. We see everyone from every walk of life and from every nation, tribe, language and tongue not according to whatever we see on the outside – but as someone with a soul on the inside; a soul for whom Christ died. Just like he did for us.
That approach has an impact on how we treat other people, as well as the importance we place on supporting mission work.
Paul’s second great point for us to remember is this: A Christian is a new creation with a Son-centered perspective and approach to life.
18 All this is from God (grace alone!), 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.
The key thought here is that every Christian is given a title which defines the important role they play on this earth. If Paul were making up business cards and handing them out to every Christian, they’d have our name on the top line and on the second line “Ambassador for Christ.”
The role of an ambassador, of course, is to faithfully represent someone else’s interests. The blessed role of every Christian ambassador is to represent Jesus Christ before a watching world.
The first thing we should know about this role is that it is not a take it or leave it proposition. By virtue of our calling as Christians, it’s ours. The only question we must consider is how we are fulfilling our role. And that calls for daily introspection.
That being said, it’s not an unwanted role for the Christian. Rather it’s a natural one, and one that is gratefully and willingly embraced. Why? Paul gave the reason in the very first words of our lesson: “Christ’s love compels us.”
So how do Christians fulfill their role as Christ’s ambassadors? Jesus himself gives us direction in his Sermon on the Mount. There he tells us: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
Being an ambassador for Christ is not a stressful job. As stated previously, it’s a natural one. When we quietly and intentionally live our lives with a personal awareness of what Jesus has done for us, is doing for us, and will do for us throughout eternity, Jesus Christ will be represented well.
When in an unforced and appropriate setting we have the opportunity to bear witness to the love of Christ and what it means for us, as well as what it means for the person we are speaking with, Jesus Christ will be represented well. And in both cases, the world will notice.
The final point Paul makes today is this: The Christian has a privileged role to play on this earth as Christ’s ambassador.
So, let’s go back now to our original premise. When you walked into church today you were struck with amnesia. You knew you were a Christian, but what exactly that means had to be reconstructed through what the Apostle Paul told us in this section of 2 Corinthians.
Here is what we pieced together from this Christian life case study, and this is what we are:
- A Christian is one who is at peace with God through the sacrificial love demonstrated by Jesus Christ on the cross.
- A Christian is a new creation with a Son-centered perspective and approach to life.
- The Christian has a privileged role to play on this earth as Christ’s ambassador.
God grant we always remember and never forget who we are, to the glory and honor of Christ Jesus. Amen.