|Sunday School & Bible Class (Sept-May)||9:15 AM|
Confident in Reconciliation
5th Sunday after Pentecost
June 24, 2018
Lincoln Heights Lutheran Church
Confident in Reconciliation
2 Corinthians 5:14–21 (NIV84)
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, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 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 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. 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.
Dear Friends in Christ,
The leader of the United States of America recently met with the leader of North Korea. The relationship between our country and North Korea has not been friendly for many years. The relationship between North Korea and many nations of this world has been bad for many years. But at this recent meeting the two leaders who called each other names and made threats against each others’ country, seemed to get along. They shook hands and smiled for the camera. But has there truly been a reconciliation? Have sworn enemies become trusted friends? I don’t think anyone would say we are at that point yet. Reconciliation, whether between hostile nations or individuals, take time. It is a process of both sides working together in good faith to make the relationship better. I have no idea whether that will ever happen between North Korea and the United States.
However, today the Apostle Paul tells us about a reconciliation in which we can be confident. God has, in Christ, reconciled the world to himself. This is not a process of negotiation with hostile sides coming to an agreement to be friends again. Reconciliation is God changing the way he looks at the world. When you know how God has changed the way he looks at you, then you can change the way you look at the world too. As we continue our series on being confident, we see that we are confident in reconciliation.
Reconciliation Changes the Way God Looks at the World
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 men’s sins against them.
To reconcile is to restore friendship. If God needs to reconcile the world to himself, then there must have been a time when the world was friends with God and then enemies of God. In the beginning Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with God. The Lord God created them in his own image, with perfect righteousness and holiness. There was perfect harmony between the Holy God and his holy people.
But at some point a war broke out. Satan rebelled against the Lord God and recruited Adam and Eve into his army. Though his recruiting promises were lies and half truths, the holy people of God turned their backs on God and joined in the rebellion. Now, in the movies, the rebellion is often the group fighting to restore peace and justice – the good guys. Not in this case. The children of Adam are no longer born in the image of God, righteous and holy, but in the image of Adam, corrupt and sinful. The descendants of Adam are not born as friends of God but as his enemies.
Look around at this world and you see evidence everywhere that people are not righteous and holy. Humans can’t even be friendly with other humans, let alone being friends with God. People divide up based on family, tribe, nationality, skin color, occupation, political party, religion and more. And we humans don’t trust anyone from the other group, sometimes even despising them. Verbal fights and physical violence can be the result. It is obvious that those other people are not on friendly terms with God. Look at how they treat their neighbor.
Look inside yourself and see if you are any different. You were also born in the image of Adam, in sin and in a state of rebellion against the Lord God. When God tells us to love our neighbors, our sinful nature objects, “But only the ones like me, right?” When God tells us to go straight at the intersection, our sinful self says, “Let’s find out what is to the left or the right.” How can God look at us or anyone in this world as anything other than his enemies. Humans are in continual rebellion against God. Certainly we are not going to change and become his friends on our own.
So God changes the way he looks at us. He takes action on our behalf. He reconciles the world to himself. This is a one sided action. The world did not do anything to make this happen. God does everything in Christ Jesus. Paul tells us that our God does not count our sins against us anymore. This is how he makes us his friends. He no longer sees our sins as counting against us.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
The holy and righteous Son of God committed no sin and no deceit was every in his mouth. Yet, he took all of our sins upon himself. God changed the way he counted. Instead of counting every wicked thought against us, they are counted against Jesus. Every word spoken in hate is counted against Jesus. Every terrible action we done that no one else knows about and we don’t want anyone to ever know have been counted against Jesus. Every sin and wickedness and atrocity in the history of the world is counted against Jesus as if he is the only one to ever sin against God. In Christ, God has changed the way he looks at everyone in the world. The sin and rebellion of every person is not counted against them because Jesus died for all. Therefore, God no longer sees the world of humans as his enemies but as those he loved enough to give his Son to save. He has reconciled us and all people so that we are his friends.
Reconciliation Changes the Way We Look at the World
Not only does God’s reconciliation changed the way he sees the world, it changes the way believers see the world.
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.
Paul’s life before the Holy Spirit brought him to believe that God reconciled him by the life, death and resurrection of Christ was all about looking at people from a worldly point of view. Paul was a Jew which he considered as being better than every other nationality, the Gentiles. Paul followed God’s law from the very beginning of his life, being circumcised on the proper day of life, the eighth day. He was from the tribe of Benjamin, better than some others. He was a Pharisee which made him better than most Jews because he lived the law of God and everyone knew it. He was intelligent and ambitious and advanced in Judaism beyond other Jews his own age. Paul knew where he stood in life. A few were above him but most were below him, especially Jesus Christ.
After all, who was Jesus from a worldly point of view? He was the son of poor parents from the nothing-good-comes-from-there town of Nazareth. While Jesus did interact with the influential and powerful of society, the interaction was usually not appreciated by the influential and powerful as Jesus called them to repent. Jesus dared to talk with and eat with sinners, tax collectors and prostitutes. He dared to proclaim forgiveness of sins and to proclaim that people like Paul needed to repent too. From a worldly point of view, Jesus was a nothing, a troublemaker, and those like Paul were glad to see Christ crucified.
But Paul’s view has completely changed. Paul knows that he deserves to be God’s enemy and punished in hell forever. But He also knows that God considers him a friend because of Christ. How then can Paul look upon others with contempt? The love of Christ compels him to show the love of Christ to others. He must look at others as God looks at the world, reconciled to God by the blood of Christ.
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.
Paul went and told others that Jesus has reconciled all people to God. He talked to people he would never have associated with before. He told Lydia, a woman, about Jesus. He told Roman leaders like Festus and Felix. He told Greeks philosophers in Athens. He told rich and poor, slave and free, men and women to believe in the One who has made you friends with God again. Trust in Jesus Christ.
The love of Christ compels us to be his ambassadors too. Look at each individual you meet and know as God sees them. In Christ God has reconciled the world to himself and does not count their sins against them. Some people just don’t know that peace has been declared and continue to battle against the Lord such as atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Hindus and all others who do not trust in Christ. Be an ambassador for Christ to all who are still in unbelief. Show them Christ’s love by how you treat them. Don’t just act like a friend, be a friend as far as it depends on you. Tell them of Christ’s love when you have the opportunity. Do the same for anyone who is different from you (because everyone is a little different). Different families, countries, language, cultures, and even politics do not keep God from being reconciled to all people in Christ. No difference should keep us from seeing someone as Jesus sees them – a soul he died to save.
I don’t know what is going to happen with the efforts to change the relationship between the United States and North Korea. We don’t always have confidence in human leaders and human promises. But we can be and God wants us to be sure of this. We are not God’s enemies. In Christ our sins are not counted against us. We have been reconciled to God through Christ. We know this Word of God applies to us because it applies to the whole world.