New Life Sermon
I want to share a something today I am coming to understand; when I understand who I am, Life is a joy.
I grew up in Mississippi, on a pretty big farm with my family. The family farm was made up of my grandparents, my dad, and my 2 uncles. My Grandmother cooked for us all every day so needless to say she had a big garden and a bunch of farm animals, chickens, rabbits, geese, ducks, peacocks, guineas. I want to tell you about our favorite duck. His name was funny duck. We called him that because he was abandoned as an egg. He was taken in by one of our more compassionate momma chickens, as ‘her’ own. We tended this to be a surrogate relationship and to transition him back into his family when he was born.
When he was born, we must have been busy, because he spent several days with the momma chicken, so much so that he began to live like her. He found himself scratching in the dirt for bugs just like momma chicken. He totally missed his genetics as a duck.
Enter in a bunch of elementary aged kids, me and my 5 cousins who called the farm home and all the animals our own. Once we realized Mr. Duck was confused, we decided to help him out. We caught him and went down to the creek to throw him in with the other ducks. When we did, it was a war. The other ducks completely attacked him. They didn’t realize that he was one of them; Funny Duck didn’t even realize he was one of them. He just thought he was the only rooster who could swim.
His understanding of who he was, a very lucky rooster (because he could swim); affected everything he did, and everywhere he went. How he ate, where he slept, who he hung out with, even his girlfriend.
His flawed self identity affected who he was as shown in his actions. He was a very ineffective Duck and a very frustrated rooster.
He was experiencing difficulties between his form, what he was and his function, what he was supposed to do. Funny duck had a pretty rough life. For him, there was no joy in life because he didn’t understand who he was.
I too often get confused about who I am. I get my roles mixed up, I lose my focus, I usually don’t forget my form, but I often confuse my function.
Can I be honest right now? I often feel like I must do more in order to be effective. I, as one who seeks follow God, and obey his call on my life, often feels, to a certain degree, it necessary to please people; to be liked and accepted by others, I often take on more than I should to meet the needs of others.
When I must say no, it is not unusual that I think that I am disappointing someone, causing me to become frustrated.
This leads me to fill my schedule with lots of activities and before long I find myself on a never ending treadmill of “what’s next”. I become a consumer of experiences, rather than really being present in any of them.
I understand this about myself now.
When I talk to my friends, whether here at church or in the community, one thing I hear is how busy they are. It’s often referred to in terms of some kind of crazy achievement to be proud of.
As a part of my appointment to KIUMC, I am able to experience the life of different committees; one of the most recent ones I attended was the Committee on Lay Leadership. Many of you know it as the Nominating committee. I was there as kind of an observer more than anything else, but as I listened to the conversations between committee members and church members being recounted, I was struck by how often this problem of busyness came up.
I left to wonder, what’s the source of this?
Am I the only one who sometimes lacks focus. What about you, are you one like me who often gets your functions confused? Do you too find yourself being too busy? Do you too wish you had more time to do what you wanted? Do you too feel guilty because you can’t do more?
Is it a matter of not having time to do things for God, or is it a matter of feeling overwhelmed and responsible for doing too many things? Either way, we become frustrated or ineffective. The joy in our relationship with God is short lived and easily extinguished, resulting in us needing to find a way to relight the flame over and over again.
As I have begun to understand the Gospel, the Good News and how it works itself out in my life that these things are becoming clear to me. You see, when we find ourselves living outside of a Gospel Centered Life, we find ourselves to be a frustrated and ineffective, our form doesn’t match our function.
I am convinced that our problems relate to our understanding of the Gospel.
Which brings us to today’s reading: 2 Corinthians 5:11-20
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.
What is this new creation they are talking about? Where does this new life come from? It’s hinted at in verse 21: the good news, the Gospel.
It comes from us believing and having faith in the message and messenger of the Gospel. You see, most of you know and understand the teaching of scriptures;
God created the earth and everything in it. God made a covenant with Adam and eve to live and care for the earth. They then chose to act in disobedience to God’s covenant, the first sin. Following that first sin, Man has continually chosen his own way and pulled away from God. In order to restore the relationship with Man, God chose to come to earth in the form of a man and live a perfect life, and sacrifice himself for the sins of the whole world. The New Testament teaches that it is in our faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ which restores our relationship with God the Father.
The key to all of this is our understanding that it is by God’s grace that it is all because of God’s Grace. It is by God’s grace that draws us to him, it is God’s grace which restores our relationship, and it is by God’s grace which we are able to live a life which we can spend honoring Him.
When I was a kid I always watched Tarzan on Saturday’s. It came on at 10 am in my town. You remember him right. The real guy with the monkey Chetah, you just dated yourself. Not the cartoon or the black and white Tarzan but the one in the ugly colors. Swinging through the trees, calling out. YODDLE. You remember. Well after it was over, I remember many times putting the knife in my pants, i wouldn't wear a loin cloth, adn swinging in the trees at my grandmother's house, even pretending to have a pet monkey i could even yell like Tarzan. But even though I could do most of the things he did I wasn’t him. Same with our the gospel, we can do the Christian stuff, stop cussing, give money to the church, stop drinking, treat my wife well…and never be a Christian.
Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man and is freely offered to all who repent of their sins and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. By His blood, Jesus has obtained eternal redemption for every believer. We are “saved by grace through faith, not works, lest anyone should boast”(Eph 2:8-9). Therefore, salvation is the work of God from beginning to end. Salvation is wholly dependent upon the work of God’s grace. God credits His righteousness to those who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation, thereby justifying them in His sight.
We change from having ourselves (MAN) in the center to one which is God Centered, when we begin to live with God’s plan as our purpose, we live as Gospel Centered; we are able to live a life of JOY, real joy.
When we have an incorrect view of the Gospel, it can lead to us legalistic, condemning, or relativistic lives. Generally speaking, we become frustrated because we live a life in opposition to the new life we have been given.
Legalistic in the sense that if people don’t live out their faith like we do, then they are not really Christians. We live lives obsessed with doing things according to the “LAW” whatever that means.
When we live condemning lives, we forget what it was like to be a sinner. We have forgotten what we were like before we knew Jesus. We fail to have compassion for people who don’t know who we know, Jesus.
When we live relativistic lives, we justify our actions. Either we are unable to see our selfish centered actions as sin, or we are able to rationalize them into God’s plan. As Paul cautioned, we shouldn’t sin all the more, just because we have been saved.
Becoming a Christian means we put our confidence in the Good News of Christ. When we have a gospel Centered life, we live as a new creation.
It is so easy to brush this off as just another "churchy" metaphor, but there is so much when you take into account the implications of this passage. The first is that the old creation is gone. Think about what that means -- before Christ you were building up this person who has a certain personality, a certain reputation, and a very sinful nature. In fact, it was all sin, because God was not part of it. But then God broke you down. There is no creation anymore, there is no "you" anymore! You became nothing. In this demolition, your entire past was gone--your reputation, your bad deeds, your evil thoughts...it was all LOST. Then, you allow God to build a new you. The way I see it is that the new you doesn't even know the old you. You are aware of him, but it has no affect on your life. You can start from scratch, and leave all the decisions you have ever made behind. You are a BRAND NEW creation, and that is not a metaphor--that is the truth.
Being a new creation means we are free to pursue His goals today, in both our work and our worship.
Pick it up with me again to 2 Corinthinians 5:18-20:
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 are allowed to join Him in His work of bringing people to him. You want your life to have purpose, how about joining with the God of creation in His work. That is meaning.
Who are we? We say we are a people who seek to Grow up, Grow deep, and Grow out as the body of Jesus Christ.
This statement which, tells me that we want to be Disciples of Christ. Followers of Christ. We are a group of people who are striving to live a life which reflects Christ to Kent Island. This isn’t just something we wrote in order to give our church direction. It is something which every person who worships here and considers this home should understand as our direction;
it is not just a goal, it is what we do. We are striving to live the Gospel by growing UP in Him, deep in our understanding of Him, and Out as a representation of HIM.
It’s not something we add to everything we do as a church, nor should it be something which we add to our own lives. Rather it is something we become.
We strive to live a Gospel centered life. Just as Christ is the Good News to us, we strive to allow God to use us as good news to others both as a church through our ministry, worship, and service; and as well as individuals through our calling and gifting.
Are you living a gospel centered life? Do you consider putting the Glory of God before all things, both work and worship?
That’s who we need to be, we need to live a life which is Gospel Centered. Understanding the Gospel means we will understand who we are in Christ. It is because of the good news that we don’t have to wonder about our identity. Understanding who we are in Christ will give us freedom to live for Him. It isn’t something added to our life; it becomes our life. It is everything we are.
It is the old life (the life of death and sin) which causes us to feel guilt for not doing enough or guilt for feeling like we have to choose between doing something for God or something for ourselves. Turning back to the life which was destroyed in the making of our new creation.
Do you remember what it was like to be free? Free of pressures and guilt? It’s probably difficult, but let me help you.
Think back to when you first realized that God deserved your full attention. For some of us it happened when we were old enough to capture those moments in memory; others it happened when we were so young that we can’t seem to recall, but allow me to share my moment and perhaps you will understand.
It was the fall of 1996. While I had always known God to be my savior, it was at this moment that I found myself in desperate need for direction, the only place I knew to look was in the scriptures and the church. I found the answers there. I began to spend all my time in both of those places, hungry to understand all I needed to live a life glorifying God, helping me to restore my relationships.
Do you remember the passion you had for only God and Glorifying Him? While we may not be able to reclaim all the energy and enthusiasm we had at the time when God entered into our lives, we can rely on the Grace of God working in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit to transform our lives into Gospel Centered.
Joy is found in understanding who we are in Christ.
If you are here today and have never considered allowing God to direct your life; never allowed Jesus to be both the Lord and Savior of your life, I want to let you know that you can do that today.
We welcome you at our rail this morning, please come and spend some time in prayer with your creator. The one who has made it possible for you to live a newly focused life, one where you can be free of the consequences of your sin. A life where Joy can be found.
Or do you find yourself living in frustrated and overwhelmed? Unable to focus your life on God’s Glory? I want you to know as well that today can be the day when you can allow God to continue that transforming work in your life. The New creation can be birthed today.
The Gospel isn’t something added to our lives. It is a wrecking ball. It completely destroys our old life. Every time we center our life on it, Jesus builds a new life from the wreckage. When we turn from our own desires and seek to glorify God with our lives, in both work and worship; by God’s grace we find JOY.
POINT: Living is a joy when we understand who we are in Christ.