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.
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, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 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 people’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.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
In the last month I’ve thrown away two pair of shoes. I didn’t really want to because they have served me well. I threw away a pair of wingtips that I wore for church, and a pair of work boots that lost both of their heels. They served me well but were well worn and the time had come for a new pair. Maybe you’re like me and you hesitate to make changes. I like the old and familiar and only change when it is really necessary—like when my shoes become bad, worthless or even dangerous.
The Bible teaches us that our God never changes. Yet, he is not afraid to bring about change, especially if the change he works will remove us from something bad or worthless or dangerous. The Word of God in 2 Corinthians 5 describe for us the greatest change God ever worked for us. It is a change so great that I pray the Holy Spirit will cause you to confidently confess with joy….
The Old Has Gone; The New Has Come
A. I love watching action movies, when I watch movies. There is something thrilling when the aircraft carrier has enemy jets approaching and the captain asks the radio man, “What’s their status?” You know what he’s asking. How far away from the ship are they, how fast are they going, are there jets from which we should be thinking about defending ourselves? That’s status: rank, position, social relationship. So someone with a low status might be a condemned criminal. They hear the judge read the verdict and hang their head because they realize how their life has changed. But, what a radical change in criminal’s status if during the sentencing stage of the trial the judge announces, “I will personally pay your fine and endure your jail time! I will take your place and declare you to be innocent eve though you are not! On top of that, I will see to it that you receive good standing in your community when you return and look for a job.” Jaw dropping New Status, isn’t it?
Most of you here have heard this type of story that helps us realize the amazing status believers have before God. It is another reason the church is such a cool place to be. I don’t care if you’re a doctor, manager, CEO, nurse, or videographer, without a Savior we would have no standing before God. Why? Because of what Paul called
“our secret and shameful ways.”
You know what he’s talking about that ought to make you the target of God’s wrath! On average Americans eat out 4 to 5 times per week. It’s important to us that we feed our bodies! However, did you know that on average about half of our congregation comes here once a week to feed their souls when God even gave a commandment that says, “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy!” every week! You talk about how you love Jesus, but less than 30% attend a weekly Bible Class. To rebel against God and his Word is to invite his anger. Such was the case for Sodom and Gomorrah, for those who rebelled against Moses and the earth opened up and swallowed them up. If we remained in our old sinful status before God, we would face God’s wrath in hell eternally.
B. But, Paul announced fantastic news!
“we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died…. God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. …. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Here is the miracle: God changed your status! God did that by having Jesus exchange places with you. Jesus got your punishment for sin and you got his holiness to enter before God. Did you hear!?! As a baptized believer each of you, regardless of your standing in the eyes of the world, grace upon grace, you have a standing before God. Peter said,
“and this water [of the flood] symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God”
1 Peter 3:21
You have the New Status that states: The Old has Gone; The New Has Come!
I can see that for some of you this new status I’m talking about sounds sort of heady. But, do you know what kind of people to whom Paul wrote this letter? The Corinthians! They had the best internet of the day (commerce) which meant they had the latest games (maybe not Active Shooter) but loved who they were—snooty, wise Corinthians! They loved their gods—one of their more famous ones was Aphrodite—the god of love. Temple prostitution estimates? The typical prostitute worked between 6 to 8 hours a day and between 5 to 6 days a week. During a working day, the temple prostitute averaged between 3 to 5 clients. So famous was their reputation that to “Corinthianize” came to mean, “Go to Corinth to practice sexual immorality.” Are you listening? Paul wrote to these people so they could know their sin, repent, stop it and then trust the amazing proclamation of God’s forgiveness to them. “Your Old Status is Gone! The New Has Come!
C. God has done the same for you! Paul used a big word for this: Reconciliation! “18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ……that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them.” God knows your worship habits, or lack thereof, your rebellion against his holy will, your poor choice of priorities, your lustful thoughts and actions… The anger that God aimed at us, no, that should have been aimed at us, he aimed at Jesus as our Substitute. He grants this new status to the world! Therefore, let there be no doubt in your mind that before God for Jesus’ sake, dear believer, your old status is gone and the new status has come.
So, so you really think that people who have a new lease on life would actually take advantage of this new status they have? Would they look back and say, “The Old Life has gone; the New Life has come!?
The New Life
A. Let’s say that Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins would pardon all the people in the Dallas County prisons. I’d have my concerns. You? You suppose all the prisoners let lose would so appreciate their freedom that they would never return to their old way of life? Neither do I. Actually, I would say it would be dangerous. However, I do believe there just might be a couple of those prisons who were so happy to be released, so touched by the kindness of the judge, that out of gratitude they would gladly follow the laws of the land and turn to a new way of life. They would probably become productive and active citizens, don’t you think?
B. God has given new status to sinners, but sadly, some don’t care and fall back into their old way of life. Christian will recognize their sins of sinful lust, abuse of alcohol, taking illegal drugs, abusing spouse or children, cheating at work… and no one wants to be in the ditch of their sin, but need to understand that living in deliberate, unrepentant sin puts one’s salvation in jeopardy! Perhaps the strongest warning for those living in sin comes from Hebrews 10
“26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God…..“The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Say it plainly. Just like the unmoved pardoned prisoner, the person who refuses Jesus’ forgiveness and falls back into his or her old way of life, is living in unbelief and therefore in danger of the fires of hell.
This makes it all the more important that we share and encourage each other with God’s Words of promise.
“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….. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
Believe what you just heard. You were made alive when the Holy Spirit created faith in your heart through God’s Word, or at your baptism. You have the new life in Christ. Now live!
I can see that for some of you this new life I’m talking about sounds sort of heady. Let me tell you about the Corinthian church. They were a mess. They were not one church with many families, but they had divided themselves up into factions. They didn’t go to each other’s fellowship events, complained about how the others did things, had gross sexual sins (incest), unnecessary lawsuits, disorder in worship, disregard for marriage and the list goes on! Can you imagine! Paul wrote to them that through faith in Jesus Christ, they repented, trusted in Jesus’ forgiveness and had a new lease on life! Grateful for the new status on life they turned from their sins and enjoyed freedom to gladly pursue a God-pleasing path. God worked changes. The old dangerous way of life that led to hell was changed into the new way of life that led to heaven.
C. You have that new life before God. Yes, we have the old way of life that fights to pull us off God’s path and get us back onto its sinful path. You can look back in your life right now and tell stories about this. Maybe you look back and see God’s work getting done, but you weren’t involved because you were too lazy. Maybe you heard others praying for God’s help, guidance, patience, and healing for others but you weren’t involved because you just didn’t have the spiritual energy to pray. Maybe you watched others helping out with kingdom work and you just weren’t motivated. Listen, Paul puts his finger on our source to be motivated! “For Christ’s love compels us.” Here is where the God-created fire-power goes to work. It’s like the freed criminal that really wants to stay clean. He remembers where he was and where he’d be if it hadn’t been for the judge’s kindness. He marvels and even giggles every once in a while, that’s he is really free! Remember where you would be without Jesus. Marvel in the New Life God has given to you.
As you think about your new status and your new life, go back to the story of the judge graciously freeing criminals once again. What would happen if the judge found those freed prisoners and said, “I hope your enjoying your new status, your new life. And say, I have a new job for you. How would they react?
New Work – from criminal to courier!
A. Those prisoners who appreciated their new status and their new life would probably be eager to hear what the new job was. The judge would then say, “I want you to go to other prisons and tell others of my kindness to them. I am empowering you to announce that they are free, too!” Think about this! Earlier these freed prisoners had cursed the judge who sentenced them to prison, and now they were the messengers of good news from him to others.
“18 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 people’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.”
So, was the life of St Paul. He knew the bad and the ugly side when he persecuted the church of God. But, then he met Jesus who showed him his errors, forgave his sin and gladly received Paul’s repentance heart and eager desire to share Jesus’ love and forgiveness with others as Christ’s ambassador.
B. So, do you like your job? Some do. Some don’t. But, if you’d like a job that is out of this world, enjoy hearing Jesus’ Great Commission to all his forgiven brothers and sisters to be his ambassadors! The Holy Spirit calls and equips the followers of Jesus in order to carry out this work.
I can see that for some of you this new work I’m talking about sounds sort of heady. Let me tell you about the Corinthian church. They heard these wonderful gospel words and got to work with zeal and excitement. No, they didn’t all quit their day jobs, but they added to their earthly work the new spiritual, eternal work of proclaiming the Good News of Jesus. They pooled their resources, prayed for Paul and other missionaries, and gave witness to their neighbors and friends.
C. You have that new status, new life and new work of proclaiming the gospel to others. You might be shocked, think you’re not cut out for the job, surprised or excited. Just listen to Paul’s words,
“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.”
You could tell someone that they were free from prison and they would be pretty excited. But, to tell someone that they are free from the eternal flame of hell through faith in Jesus Christ! WOW!
Things are going to wear out. You might have recently thrown out a pair of shoes, too. Then it’s time to break in those new shoes. I know, sometimes you might feel a little uncomfortable at first because changing into new shoes isn’t always easy. But, you are God’s people, who have had your status changed from the sinner deserving punishment to the saint with a relationship with God. This change was necessary! With a new life and a new purpose for living I think you’ll join me to give thanks to the Lord for Jesus’s sake who gave you a new life in Christ. Amen!