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…
- Old Body (2 Corinthians 5:1a, 2a, 3-4a, 6-8)
- It is referred to as an earthly tent being torn down (2 Corinthians 5:1a)
- It is filled with weary groaning (2 Corinthians 5:2a)
- In this body we groan and are burdened, and dying (2 Corinthians 5:4a)
- 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.
- The Spirit helps us face the present (2 Corinthians 5:6) be of good courage.
- The Spirit stirs our faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) walk by faith and not by sight.
- The Spirit sirs our desire to be with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:8) we prefer to be at home with the Lord.
- New Body (2 Corinthians 5:1b, 2b, 4b-5)
- It is referred to as a home or house in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:1b) and it is not built with human hands.
- 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…
- 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.
- 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…
- 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…
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- Christ died so that all might die with him (2 Corinthians 5:14) the old life no longer has control over a believer.
- 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.
- 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:
- What is this message calling you to do right now?
- How will this New Year be different from the last year?
- What decision are you putting off until another day?
- 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