All Things Become New

Welcome to my final message of 2012, as we look forward to a New Year in just a couple of days. It’s hard to believe that 2013 is nearly here.

I enjoy from time to time seeing one of those Extreme Makeover shows; it is amazing what they can do over a short period of time. In this chapter in the Bible, Paul writes about the ultimate makeover any person can have. Paul writes about the new bodies believers will one day receive and about the duty of believers as ambassadors for Christ.

1. Reassurance (2 Corinthians 5:1-8) Paul is telling these believers what to expect in the next life. It had been a while since Jesus was raised from the dead, about 24 years before Paul writes this letter to the Corinthian church. People started asking “How long?” and “When is Jesus returning?” “What happens to US after we die off?” They needed a little reassurance. These first eight verses teach mainly about two bodies…

  1. Old Body (2 Corinthians 5:1a, 2a, 3-4a, 6-8)
    1. It is referred to as an earthly tent being torn down (2 Corinthians 5:1a)
    2. It is filled with weary groaning (2 Corinthians 5:2a)
    3. In this body we groan and are burdened, and dying (2 Corinthians 5:4a)
    4. It reminds us that we are absent from the Lord and we cannot see him (2 Corinthians 5:6-8) Remember that Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to be with us after he left this earth. Since we are not present with Lord, the Spirit is present with us.
      1. The Spirit helps us face the present (2 Corinthians 5:6) be of good courage.
      2. The Spirit stirs our faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) walk by faith and not by sight.
      3. The Spirit sirs our desire to be with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:8) we prefer to be at home with the Lord.
  2. New Body (2 Corinthians 5:1b, 2b, 4b-5)
    1. It is referred to as a home or house in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1b) and it is not built with human hands.
    2. We will be clothed in a new heavenly dwelling or body (2 Corinthians 5:2b) and will not be found naked. It was quite troubling to think about the afterlife and having no body, what sort of existence would that be? It is as if they knew that a ghost is never at rest or at peace. Paul then clarifies even further in 2 Corinthians 5:4…
    3. We will be clothed, the old is swallowed up in life, we will NOT a disembodied spirit (2 Corinthians 5:4b) because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
    4. It will be able to see Jesus face to face. God prepared us for this purpose (2 Corinthians 5:5) I see here that God has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. That which is to come is in the presence of our Lord and Savior. God guarantees our hope; the Spirit enhances our hope.

2. Resolve (2 Corinthians 5:9): The NIV uses the word, “So,” while the NASB uses the word, “Therefore” to mean that Paul wrote all these verses to get to his main point. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. Paul’s ambition is to please God in BOTH bodies, here in this life and there in the afterlife. There IS an ambition that is self-serving and selfish, but there is also a holy ambition that seeks to honor and glorify God. Paul’s greatest ambition was to please Jesus Christ, and him alone (Galatians 1:10). The word “pleasing” can also be translated “accepted.” This word indicates that whatever we do in life, if it is pleasing to God, we can be assured that he will accept our behavior. The opposite is also true; if we live a life and offer to God that which displeases him, we can be assured that it will be rejected. We are in a dangerous position when God does not accept our words, worship, lifestyle, habits, prejudices, jokes, movie choices, internet pages we have bookmarked, language and attitudes. This verse is a great introduction into the very next verse, 2 Corinthians 5:10.

3. Review (2 Corinthians 5:10): The apostle reminds his readers of a sobering truth: we all are going to be held accountable. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. There are two things to notice in this one verse…

  1. The Place (2 Corinthians 5:10a): we will all appear before the judgment seat of Christ. The word here is bema seat; it’s that bench where decisions are handed down by rulers, or the place where awards are handed out to the winner of a competition. This judgment seat will be a place of revelation, the word used is “appear,” which means “to be revealed.” At that time of judgment, there will be no hiding our dirty little secrets. The second thing worth noting is…
  2. The Purpose (2 Corinthians 5:10b): It is here that the quality (or lack of quality) of our life will be determined. The purpose is to, receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. Paul is sure to tell us that while not every believer is ambitious for the Lord, ALL believers are going to stand before him one day… so NOW is the time to prepare.
  3. I’ve noticed that people today would rather deny the existence of God than to be held accountable to him. If people really understood that we ALL will be judged one day, and that hell is a real destination, our behavior is bound to change. If on the other hand I can deny that God exists, and that this life is all that there is, I can do as I please, believing I’m not going to be judged or held accountable. If I acknowledge the existence of God, I must also know that I am accountable to that God for my behavior.
  4. Think about our society these past two generations: evolution has permeated most everything our children are taught in school; it is taught as fact instead of theory. Belief in a divine creation is written off as myth, fable and superstition; creationists are narrow-minded, bigoted or unthinking. There’s a term for such a philosophy of life, they call themselves “free thinkers.” Yet, they fail to see that it is only the TRUTH that sets you free, not the rejection of God and the Bible. Evolution teaches our children that they are NOT a special and unique creation of God. This worldview has brought so much evil into our society, and America has embraced it.
  5. Think about it, if we descended from apes, then there is no moral code by which society must live. Those who are the biggest and the toughest will survive… and anyone age 15 and older knows very well that school is the epitome of “survival of the fittest.” So, when some children behave like animals, the world scratches its collective head and wonders why. Why do kids abuse themselves with drugs, alcohol, pornography and promiscuity? Why is society filled with so much tragedy, death and violence? Can it be that we have taught our children for years that they are no more than an animal? They are NOT really a divine creation; something special and unique among all the animals on the planet. They buy into the message that they are no more than “an ape that made it” up the evolutionary ladder. If we teach children that they are no more than mere animals, we should NOT be alarmed when they behave like animals, simply running on instinct, selfishness and hormones.
  6. Let’s get back to the passage. Are there any people here today who do the right things (like being honest, kind, helpful, sexually pure, being a person of integrity) but, perhaps it’s ONLY because you know that you will one day be held accountable for how you lived?
  7. THAT is what Paul is talking about here. We must please God in all that we do, because we will one day stand before the Lord in judgment, for the deeds we have done while in this earthly body. Alright, let’s move on…

4. Recognition (2 Corinthians 5:11) Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. There is an urgency here, to do God’s work, while we still have time to do it. We are motivated by reverence for the Lord. I chose the word “recognition” here because of what I read in the New American Standard text, “we are made manifest to God.” The NIV translates it this way, “What we ARE is plain to God,” while the New Living Translation uses the phrase, “God knows we are sincere.” So, in our sincerity, God is made known by the way we live our lives. People will recognize God by the way we live our lives. Paul is authentic. It seems to be a bold statement, almost as if Paul is boasting about how he is living, because in the very next verse Paul addresses the subject of potential arrogance.

5. Rectitude (2 Corinthians 5:12-13) This word is not used much but it means: character, decency, goodness, honesty, integrity, morality, rightness, uprightness, or virtuousness. Integrity is required of all believers. This verse goes back to 2 Corinthians 3:1, regarding how the Judaizers were proud of their “letters of recommendation.” The point is, if we seek the praise of men in this life, we will NOT get the praise of God at the judgment seat. We need rectitude and integrity. We need to be the same people outside the walls of this sanctuary, as we are inside these walls. If our lives are demonstrating Christ, we don’t need letters of recommendation; or PROOF that we are believers in Christ. Our actions will speak as loud as our words. Second Corinthians 5:13 mentions Paul being crazy or beside himself… if this is the case, it is for GOD. Paul was crazy for God… Are we the same?

6. Relationship (2 Corinthians 5:14-16) I see relationship in these verses because Paul mentions that we are ALL in this together, which means we are relational.

  1. Christ died so that all might die with him (2 Corinthians 5:14) the old life no longer has control over a believer.
  2. Christ died so that all might live in him (2 Corinthians 5:15) we are raised to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). We are ALSO able to overcome sin. We are no longer a slave to sin whereby we must obey its desires. We ALREADY have the power to say NO.
  3. Christ died so that we might share in the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:16) we see the old man as we look at one another, but a believer is a new person. We no longer see the world or other people with the same eyes as before. Our worldview has changed to a biblical worldview. From now on we do not judge men in a carnal, earthly way, according to appearances, human credentials, or national origin. We see them as precious souls for whom Christ died.

7. Regeneration (2 Corinthians 5:17) Just as Adam was the head of the old creation, Christ is the head of the new creation. If anyone is in Christ, that is, if anyone is saved, he is a new creation. Before conversion, we might have judged others according to human standards. But now all that has changed. Old methods of judging have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Regeneration is the key. We as Christians have long preferred resuscitation over regeneration. We want a new spirit inside this old dead body, we think that is what it takes to be “born again.” But the reality is that we must experience regeneration; become a totally new person, made that way by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This verse is a favorite for many people who have recently been born again, and is often quoted in their personal testimony. Sometimes it gives quite a false impression. Listeners are apt to think that when a man is saved, old habits, evil thoughts, and lustful looks are forever done away, and everything becomes literally new in a person’s life. We all know that’s not true. The verse does NOT describe a believer’s practice but rather his position. Notice it says that if anyone is in Christ. The words in Christ are the key to the passage. In Christ, old things have passed away and all things have become new. Unfortunately, our focus is often changed toward ME and not Christ. I must change my focus from “in me” to “in Christ.” As I progress in the Christian life, I desire that my practice may increasingly correspond to my position.

8. Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19) All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. The key word in this paragraph is reconciliation. Because of rebellion, mankind is the enemy of God and out of fellowship with him. But we were brought back into a relationship with God through the finished work of Christ on the cross. The two are brought back together again. The ministry of reconciliation is explained in the message, that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” God was actively removing the cause of the separation that had come between Himself and mankind by dealing with our sin problem. God does not need to be reconciled, but mankind DOES need to be reconciled to Him. The result is that mankind will no longer have their sins held against them.

Another key phrase in this section is, “not counting the people’s sins against them.” At first glance, it might seem that this verse teaches universal salvation, that all men are saved through the work of Christ on the cross. But that teaching is completely opposite to the rest of the Bible. God has provided a way by which men’s sins might not be imputed (or assigned or counted) against them. Even though the way is available to everyone, it is effective only for those who are in Christ. The sins of unsaved people are counted against them, but the moment lost people trust the Lord Jesus as Savior, they are declared righteous in Christ, and their sins are blotted out.

In addition to God’s reconciling work, he has also committed to His servants the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, He has entrusted his followers with the huge privilege of going into the world and preaching this wonderful message to all people everywhere.

9. Representation (2 Corinthians 5:20) the Bible mentions that we are ambassadors for Christ. We are now representatives of a new kingdom that will never fall, it will last forever. An ambassador is the appointed representative of another nation. He lives in a foreign land representing the country of his citizenship. We are aliens and strangers in this world because our assignment in this life is to be an ambassador for my King.

10. Righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. This verse reminds us that not only are we forgiven for our sins, the deal gets even better because God has put into our account the actual righteousness of Jesus himself. He does not MAKE us righteous, but we are DECLARED righteous. So you may be asking, “What’s the difference?” As human beings, we can never be righteous enough to stand before a holy God, so it is our old sin nature preventing us from actually BEING righteous. But as we receive Christ and the forgiveness he offers, we are DECLARED righteous. The Father looks at sinful human beings and for those who have trusted Christ as their Savior; he sees the shed blood of Christ covering us. The Father sees the righteousness of Christ and declares us righteous.

THAT is what grace is all about. We are able to GET something that we totally don’t deserve. In conclusion, I actually want to go into the next chapter…

11. Reception (2 Corinthians 6:1) As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. Some understand that Paul is addressing the Corinthians and encouraging them to make full use of the grace that had been shown to them. But I think that Paul is still giving an account of the message which he preached to unsaved people. He has already told unbelievers of the marvelous grace which has been offered to them by God. Now he further begs them not to receive such grace in vain. They should not allow the seed of the gospel to fall in barren soil. Rather they should respond to such a marvelous message by receiving the Savior of whom the message tells. Grace is not automatic, you have to take a stand and receive it, as it says in John 1:12, But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.

12. Response (2 Corinthians 6:2) Finally, we are getting to the end! I labeled this section, response, because that is exactly what God wants from you. “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. Don’t put it off any longer. You know when the Spirit of God is working you over, the heart pounds and everything inside of you is screaming to put it off. We know for certain that any voice telling you to wait or delay or put it off for another day, is the voice of the enemy. It directly contradicts this verse that tells us that TODAY is the day of salvation.

As you begin this New Year in just a couple of days, what changes do you need to make?

Maybe you’re lost and you know it, but today is the day that something just clicked and you’re ready to start your new relationship with Christ. You want to be the new creation that Paul writes about in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Step out and come to Christ, while it is still today, because no one is ever assured of another tomorrow.

Maybe you’re a believer but your life has gotten so far away from what you know God wants. It’s time to repent of sin and your worldly behavior and get back to living a life of integrity and purity. You know your personal vice that has dragged you down; confess it to God and receive forgiveness, and enjoy new fellowship with the God who bought you with a price, the blood of his one and only Son. Nail it down today, step out for prayer, let the enemy know that on this day you are recommitting your life to Christ.

If you’re ready to join this church, your search for a church home has brought you here, why not start the New Year right by uniting with King’s Grant? I can show you how.

For all of us here, look at the Next Steps in your outline:

  1. What is this message calling you to do right now?
  2. How will this New Year be different from the last year?
  3. What decision are you putting off until another day?
  4. What motivates you to do God’s will in this world?

Pray: Father, we know deep down that we need an Extreme Makeover, but sometimes we lack the courage to take a stand right now. I pray that you will interrupt our plans and make yourself and your will known to us. What decisions do I need to make? How can lasting change be a reality in my life? Help me to know how deep your love is for us, and let that love compel us toward living a life that draws people toward God. Help us to be authentic in our spirituality, relationships and our daily walk with you. AMEN

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The Salvation of Sinners

These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.

“Images” of salvation (or the atonement) is a better term than “theories.” Theories are usually abstract and speculative concepts, where biblical images are concrete pictures and belong to the data of revelation.

  1. Propitiation introduces us to rituals at a shrine
  2. Redemption, to a transaction in the marketplace
  3. Justification, to proceedings in a courtroom
  4. Reconciliation, to experiences in a home or family
  5. Substitution is not a theory, but the foundation of these all

Propitiation: Romans 3:24-25, 1 John 2:1-4, 4:10 – to propitiate someone is to appease or pacify his anger. Remember God’s holy wrath and his loving self-sacrifice of Christ, which was his own initiative to avert his anger.

This is a critical question: is the object of the atoning action God or man? If the former, then the right word may be propitiation (appeasing God); if the latter, the right word may be expiation (dealing with sin and guilt). Christians are less pacifying the displeasure of God and more as a means of delivering man from sin. At the cross Jesus expiated sin, he did not propitiate God.

Fire and brimstone theology has the idea of appeasing an angry God or that the cross was a legal transaction in which an innocent victim was made to pay the penalty for the crimes of others. This is not Paul’s theology, but came from the minds of medieval churchmen (this is not biblical Christianity).

  1. The reason why a propitiation is necessary is that sin arouses the wrath of God:
    1. His anger is poles apart from ours.
    2. What provokes our anger (injured vanity) never provokes God; what provokes his anger (evil) seldom provokes ours.
  2. Who makes the propitiation? In pagan cultures it is always the human trying to avert the anger of the deity.
    1. The gospel states that nothing we can do or say or even contribute can compensate for our sins or turn away God’s anger. There is no possibility of persuading or bribing God to forgive us.
    2. God is so gracious he gives us the sacrificial blood to make atonement (Leviticus 17:11).
    3. Remember that God does not love us because Christ died for us; Christ died for us because God loves us.
  3. What is the propitiatory sacrifice? Not an animal, vegetable or mineral, but a person. The one person who could step in was God himself.

In Pauline theology, man is alienated from God by sin and God is alienated from man by wrath. It is the substitutionary death of Christ that sin is overcome and wrath is averted. God can now look at man without displeasure and man can now look at God without fear. Sin is expiated and God is propitiated.

Redemption: we move from an image at the temple to the marketplace, from religious rituals to business transactions, from ceremony to commercialism; to redeem is to buy back by purchase or ransom. There is an emphasis that we are more than redeemed by Christ, we are ransomed by him. This comes only at the payment of a price, which then sets us free. The price paid is not “himself” or his “life” but his “blood” (1 Peter 1:18-19). Christ was the victim as well as the priest, entering the Holy Place by his own blood (Hebrews 9:12, Romans 3:24-25, Ephesians 1:7). In communion, we drink the blood of Christ not to participate in the life of Christ, but in his death, appropriating the benefits of his life laid down.

Justification: this image tasks us into the courtroom. Justification is the opposite of condemnation. Forgiveness remits our debts and cancels our liability to punishment; justification declares us in a right standing before God. There have been various objections to justification:

  1. Strong antipathy or dislike to legal categories in talk about salvation; it presents God as Judge rather than as Father.
  2. It attempts to dismiss the doctrine as a Pauline idiosyncrasy, originating in his legalistic mind.
  3. Catholic objection of the reformers teaching on justification by faith;
    1. The Council of Trent (Session 6, January 13, 1547) taught that justification takes place at baptism and includes both forgiveness and renewal.
    2. Also, that before baptism, prevenient grace predisposes people to convert themselves to their own justification by freely assenting to and cooperating with that grace.
    3. Post-baptismal sins are not included within the scope of justification.

Justification declares the person right before God, it does not make them right.

  1. If just means forgiven and accepted and right with God, then we immediately become what God declares us to be. There is a difference between declaring and making us just.
  2. If just is used to signify made new or made alive, then again we are what God declares us to be.
  3. If just means having a righteous character or being conformed to the image of Christ, then God’s declaration does not immediately secure it, but only initiates it. Sanctification is another topic, dealing with growing in holiness.

Faith is of no value in itself. Its value lies solely in its object. The justifying work of Son and the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit cannot be separated. Good works follow justification and new birth. Salvation is never by works but unto works.

God never acquits the guilty (Exodus 23:7) and never condemns the innocent (Proverbs 17:15).

Four of Paul’s key phrases summarize his defense of this divine justification of sinners.

  1. The source of our justification is indicated in the expression “justified by his grace,” that is, by his utterly undeserved favor, which occurs in Titus 3:7 and in Romans 3:24. No one can justify himself, no one is righteous (Romans 3:10, 20, 24).
  2. The grounds for our justification are that we are “justified by his blood” (Romans 5:9). There could be no justification without atonement. There is no pardon without principle; there is no forgiveness that simply overlooks sin.
  3. The means of our justification is indicated in Paul’s favorite expression “justified by faith” (Romans 3:28; 5:1 [“justified through faith”]; Galatians 2:16; 3:24). Grace and faith belong indissolubly to one another, since faith’s only function is to receive what grace freely offers.
  4. The effects of our justification can be deduced from Paul’s expression “justified in Christ” (Galatians 2:17), which points to his historical death, and personal relationship with him that, by faith, we now enjoy.

Reconciliation: this image is from the home and family and friends; it is the opposite of alienation. It begins with reconciliation to God and then to the community. It has to do with making peace with God, adoption into his family and having access to his presence. Ephesians 2:11-22 refer to the wall of separation, Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 2:14) but also separated from Christ (Ephesians 2:12).

How does reconciliation take place (2 Corinthians 5:18-21)?

  1. God is the author of reconciliation: it is from his initiative, not ours. We are reconciled to him; he is not reconciled to us. He is always the subject and never the object. Reconciliation presupposes enmity between two parties. The Bible uses words like, enemies with God, enmity, hostility (Romans 11:28, 5:10).
  2. Christ is the agent of reconciliation: 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 make this clear; God reconciled us to himself through Christ (past tense). It was finished at the death of Christ.
  3. We are the ambassadors of reconciliation: (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Summary:

  1. Propitiation underscores the wrath of God upon us.
  2. Redemption, our captivity to sin.
  3. Justification, our guilt.
  4. Reconciliation, our enmity against God and alienation from him.
  5. All of God’s saving work was achieved through blood-shedding, the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ.

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Forgiveness and Grace

I’ve come to understand that Justice is getting what one deserves, mercy is not getting what one deserves and that grace is getting something that we definitely do not deserve. It is unmerited favor, something that only God can do. The closest we can come is probably being a parent; we do things for this little person that they do not deserve, but we do them for no other reason than because we love them. If we desire to become more like Christ (Romans 8:29), we must learn to grow in forgiveness and grace.

Quotes:

Forgiveness is the final form of love. — Reinhold Niebuhr

The world can do almost anything as well as or better than the church. You need not be a Christian to build houses, feed the hungry, or heal the sick. There is only one thing the world cannot do. It cannot offer grace. — George McDonald

I rejected the church for a time because I found so little grace there. I returned because I found grace nowhere else. — Philip Yancey

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sincere forgiveness isn’t colored with expectations that the other person apologize or change. Don’t worry whether or not they finally understand you. Love them and release them. Life feeds back truth to people in its own way. — Sara Paddison

Top 10 Ways to Grow in Grace:

  1. Be quick to acknowledge sin and guilt.
  2. Live in the confidence of your divine ownership.
  3. Easily receive God’s forgiveness that invites you into intimacy.
  4. Stop trying to earn God’s favor when you already have it.
  5. Reject false guilt; the enemy’s favorite lie.
  6. Take every opportunity to overlook the failures of others.
  7. Call attention to people’s potential, not their faults.
  8. Speak the truth in gentleness and love.
  9. Don’t pretend to have your life all neatly together.
  10. Be quick to forgive and slow to offend.

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Paul and Divine Initiative

Sometimes Paul’s Gospel is preached in such a way that God and Jesus Christ are set over against each other and contrasted with each other. One thing is clear, to Paul, the whole initiative of the process of salvation lies with God. There was no separation between the love and grace of Jesus in the NT with the judgment and wrath of God in the OT.

The will of God:

  1. Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and anointed us is God, (2 Corinthians 1:21)
  2. In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  3. Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, (Galatians 1:4)

The love of God:

  1. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, (2 Thessalonians 2:16)
  2. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
  3. Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
  4. Nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)
  5. I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1)
  6. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, (Ephesians 2:4)
  7. Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. (Colossians 1:12)

The initiative of reconciliation: man’s reconciliation to God, never God’s reconciliation to man. The breach lies with man.

  1. Now all [these] things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:19-20)
  2. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:10)
  3. And through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, [I say], whether things on earth or things in heaven. (Colossians 1:20)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Gospel of God:

  1. But after we had already suffered and been mistreated in Philippi, as you know, we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. (1 Thessalonians 2:2)
  2. Having thus a fond affection for you, we were well-pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God but also our own lives, because you had become very dear to us. For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, [how] working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. (1 Thessalonians 2:8-9)
  3. And we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, (1 Thessalonians 3:2)
  4. Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called [as] an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, (Romans 1:1)

Grace is associated with God and Jesus Christ:

  1. In order that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:12)
  2. Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, (Galatians 1:3)
  3. I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, (1 Corinthians 1:4)

God sent Jesus into the world:

  1. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, (Galatians 4:4)
  2. He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
  3. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:15)
  4. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
  5. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God [did:] sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and [as an offering] for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, (Romans 8:3)
  6. He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)

This material is from William Barclay, the Mind of St. Paul, 1975.

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If Our Hope is in Christ…

I’ve been wondering and asking a few questions about life… you ever do that? Since we, as Christians, talk about our hope being in Christ, (1 Corinthians 15:9, Ephesians 1:12, 2:12, Philippians 1:20, Colossians 1:27, 1 Thessalonians 1:3, 1 Timothy 1:1, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 3:6, 1 Peter 1:3, 13, 3:15), what do I really hope for? Take a look at what I found in 2 Corinthians 5:

I hope that I long for heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1, 2-3, 4-5). Do I look forward to the time when the Father calls me home and I can dwell in the place that Christ has prepared for me (John 14:3)? Am I doing all that I can to help others make it into heaven? Do I allow the Holy Spirit to remind me every day of my mission and purpose on this earth?

I hope that I have the courage to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:6-7). Do I see that there’s more to this life than just living or existing? Do I see God at work around me and through me and my church? Am I confident and willing to takes steps of faith even when I cannot see? Will I still believe even when the burden of life gets so heavy that I doubt and question the reality of Christ and what He’s done for the world and for me?

I hope that my goal is to always please Him (2 Corinthians 5:9). Do I think about Christ when I’m making decisions? Do I really ask the question “What Would Jesus Do?” and mean it? When sin tempts me to follow after it, am I reminded of the sacrifice of Christ for my soul, and that He set me free from the slavery of sin? Do I act in order to receive applause from Jesus or applause from men?

I hope that my actions on earth will reap a reward rather than condemnation (2 Corinthians 5:10). Do I act upon thoughts of compassion for others, or keep it to myself? Do I believe that I am the answer to someone’s cry for help or do I expect someone else to step up? Do I really believe that the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40) are the mission and purpose of God?

I hope that my understanding of God will continue to grow (2 Corinthians 5:11 NLT). Do I have a high view of who God is? Do my theological convictions match my actions and words? Do I always look for God within a situation, even when it has been hurtful? Do I realize that I cannot conduct my ministry without His guidance and direction? Do I lean of God as I seek to persuade others about Christ?

I hope that my ministry is all about Him and not about me (2 Corinthians 5:12). Do I give God the credit due Him for the things I do in His name? Do I recognize that nothing good dwells in me (Romans 7:18) and that I am strong only when I am weak (2 Corinthians 12:10, 1 Corinthians 1:27)? Do I remember that it is through my weakness that the power of God is unleashed (2 Corinthians 12:9, 1 Corinthians 15:43, Hebrew 11:34)?

I hope that I will never be considered normal (2 Corinthians 5:13). Do those in the world think I am crazy about Jesus? Do they think that I am just crazy? Do I stand firm that it is logical and rational to believe there is a God who created the universe and that Christ was raised from the dead? Can I give all men a reason for the hope that is in me (1 Peter 3:15)? Do I demonstrate my dependence in an age of radical independence?

I hope the love of Christ controls me (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Do I always seek the most loving thing to do, or say? Do I remember that it is because of the love of Christ that He died and that I was also crucified with Him (Galatians 2:20)? Do I have the needs of a lost world on my heart, so that love compels me to be a positive witness for Christ? Do I live for myself or do I live for others or for Christ? Do I make Jesus a part of my life or do I make Him my life?

I hope I see other people as God sees them (2 Corinthians 5:16). Do I have a God perspective on the lostness of the world? Do I see hurting people all around me and respond as an ambassador for Christ? Am I helping believers around me to see people as God sees them, and act on behalf of the “least of these” (Matthew 25:40)?

I hope that my life and those in my congregation have experienced real life change (2 Corinthians 5:17). Transformation of life is what this earthly life is all about, so am I a changed person? Am I encouraging or helping others to change in ways that pleases God and brings Him honor and glory?

I hope that the mission of God is caught by all those at King’s Grant (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). Do I understand that I am in the business of reconciliation? How can I get across to others the mission of God and cast a vision for what His mission is on the world?

I hope that I never get tired of the same old story of salvation (2 Corinthians 5:21). Do I ever just read over some passages because I know the story? Do I read the Bible to connect with God or just to prepare for another lesson? Am I open to the leadership of the Spirit as I read His Word, and allow Him to guide my thoughts, beliefs and actions? Do I hear the voice of God speaking through the written words on the page?

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