2010-05-30 (pm) 2 Corinthians 5:16-2150 Reasons Part 3
We’re jumping back into our examination of 2 Cor. 5:16-21. We’re looking at the cost of reconciliation. What it cost God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and what it costs us. Reconciliation is not easy. It is not natural to us. Unfortunately, we cannot wave a magic wand, say a few words, and wish everything away.
Nor can God simply say, “Oh well, look how humanity has sinned against me, that’s too bad, I’ll just let it all go.”
Thank back to a time where you were seriously wronged. How easy was it for you to forgive that person? Could you just shrug it off? Could you just forget it? Even if you did, did it cost you something? I’m sure it did.
Now, the cost of human sin is death. We’ve seen that time and again. That’s just the way God created the world. The wages of committing sin against God is death. God’s holiness, his integrity, his awesomeness demands such a penalty. For sin against God is committing a crime against the most beautiful being in the universe.
Think of it this way. In order to get your driver’s license, you learn the rules of the road. What happens if you break the rules of the road? You get fines and tickets. While we’d all like it if all the officers would just say, “Oh well, I’m sure you didn’t really mean to drive 80 in a school zone, when school is just getting out, nearly killing 3 students, so you can go.” If you break the law, you can expect to face the consequences.
All people, all over the earth, are guilty of breaking God’s law. All deserve the consequences, death. But God in his mercy has offered a way out. He has allowed His Son to stand in our place, to take on our guilt, our sin, our curse, our death, so that we might be free.
God in his mercy, does a whole lot more than simply wipe out our sin, as we’ll see this morning. Please follow along, in the bulletins, if you like, the five points we’ll be looking at.
To Complete the Obedience that Becomes Our Righteousness (Phil. 2:8; Rom. 5:19; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3.9)
Suppose you came to church next Sunday, only to be greeted at the door by a police officer, in uniform. Of course, when Brian and Charlotte are greeting, it’s normal to be greeted by officers. But for this moment, it is someone else. The officer takes you by the arm and ushers you into the sanctuary, only it is set up like a courtroom instead of as it is now. There’s a judge, a jury, defence and prosecution tables. The officer escorts you to the witness box. The prosecuting attorney asks you to give an account of your life.
How would you do? In a regular court, you’d probably fare quite well. But you’d probably hope that some of the things you’ve done in your life wouldn’t come up. Some speeding, perhaps some other things.
One day, we’ll all appear before God’s throne of judgement. But on that day, if we confess Christ as our saviour and Lord, we’ll have Christ to come to our defence. We will be able to quote Philippians 3:9, “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ.”
We will stand before God with Christ’s righteousness. When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, when we put our faith in Christ, trusting that Christ died in our place, Jesus transfers our sin from us, and replaces it with his righteousness. Thus, we’re justified by Jesus’ good works.
It is not enough for God to wipe out our sin. That doesn’t take care of the problem, or the root cause of sin, namely our sinful nature. In Christ, we receive a new nature, a righteous one!
Jesus’ perfect obedience established perfect obedience in us. Not that we suddenly become perfect people, but that at the end, we will be judged based on Christ’s perfect obedience, not our own disobedience.
To Take Away Our Condemnation (Rom. 8:34)
Thus, what happened at the cross, is that Christ took away our condemnation. We accept this by faith. Now, it would be really interesting to take a poll, asking what faith is. If I were to ask, what is faith, how would you respond?
Do you think of faith as a nebulous, experiential thing? Faith is trust. When we deposit our paycheques in the bank, we trust that they won’t bounce, that we’ll be able to use the funds to give gifts and offerings, pay bills, purchase food, and replace clothing, make repairs, buy gasoline, etc.
You trust your vehicle to start every day. You trust your children to obey you. You trust your parents to provide for your needs. You trust all kinds of things. That’s faith.
When it comes to Christ, we trust that his sacrifice on the cross saves us from our sin, and takes away all condemnation.
Now, this is huge, because there will be all kinds of attempts to condemn us. Satan will try to condemn us. He’ll bring lies and half-truths against us, but they won’t stick, because of Jesus’ sacrifice. People will point out our hypocrisy, they’ll demonstrate how poorly we’ve done in the past, but none of it will stick, because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1).
To Abolish Circumcision and All Rituals as the Basis of Salvation (Gal. 5:11; Gal. 6:12)
When we look at the third point, it should be painfully obvious to us. Jesus abolished circumcision and all rituals as the basis of salvation. What this means is, Christ is the only means of salvation.
But this is hard to accept. Humans are easily tempted to consider themselves more highly than they ought. When you think of yourself, how accurate a picture do you have in your mind? Do you weigh a few pounds less? Do you consider yourself to be friendly, happy, calm, collected, slow to anger, abounding in love? How would your perception of yourself compare with how others perceive you? How does it compare with how God sees you?
Because we’re prone to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, we’re also prone to think that the activities we do somehow or other impress God. We’re prone to think that if we do this and that, then God will accept us. Jews believed, and still believe that if they are circumcised on the 8th day, they’ll be part of God’s covenant with Abraham.
It all boils down to, if this, then that. If I go to church, God will forgive my sins. If I resist temptation, then God will be happy with me. If I love my spouse, then I’ll curry favour with God.
All that is nonsense. Nothing makes us more or less right with God than the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross. Nothing. No matter how little or how much you attend church. No matter how often you sin, no matter how often you pray, you cannot make yourself more right with God, than you already are in Christ.
All the rituals of the Old Testament were instituted so that when Christ came, we’d understand him for who he is. The rituals we have, there are two official ones, called sacraments, Lord’s Supper and Baptism, are meant to point us to Christ, to the once and for all satisfaction that he made for us.
All the other rituals we have, Sunday worship, Bible study, prayer, family devotions, you name it, are all meant to help us focus on Christ. They serve as reminders, that Jesus is the one who saves; he alone is the basis of salvation. Salvation is by grace through faith!
To Bring Us to Faith and Keep Us Faithful (Mk. 14:24; Jer. 32:40)
Jesus brings us to faith; Jesus keeps us faithful. Salvation is by grace through faith, and this is not of ourselves, it is a gift of God. The gift of faith comes from God, the willingness to trust in Christ’s work on the cross
Jesus, on the night he was betrayed said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.” We belong to a new covenant. A covenant is a binding agreement. Last weekend, many of us witnessed Jeroen and Cherise entering into a binding, life-long covenant called marriage.
When we come to faith in Christ, we enter into a binding, life-long covenant. The covenant in Christ is different from the Old Testament covenants, the ones God made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David. Those covenants pointed to the new covenant in Christ. The old ones were inferior, as they dealt with the externals, if you behave this way, you will receive such and such. If you do not behave this way, you will be cursed in such and such a way.
But the new covenant deals with the internals; it addresses our hearts. Jeremiah describes it for us, in 31:31-34, saying, I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts... I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more.”
That’s what Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished. It won for us, an inner change, a new birth, a total transformation. Christ creates the faith, freely gives it to us, and empowers us to live by it.
Strive away! Work hard at your faithfulness. But doing so by your own strength will result in nothing but frustration. Trust in Christ! Know that he’s put his faithfulness in you! Exercise the power that is within you! Lean on him! Know that Christ has done everything we need.
To Make Us Holy, Blameless and Perfect (Heb. 10:14; Col. 1:22; 1 Cor. 5:7)
So, how’s that going for you? How well are you trusting in the power of Christ to transform you? Jesus promises to make us Holy, Blameless and Perfect. But not right away.
It is a process. It takes a lifetime. What is exceedingly frustrating is how long it seems to take! Especially in others! If only they were more Christ like! I jest, “If only I was more Christ like!”
It seems like every gain in spiritual living is followed by agonising sin. It seems like we never just sail along smoothly, but storms of sin keep coming at us, trying to blow us off course!
But as I was reminded this past week, we need the storms to cause us to grow. We need the valleys to help us grow, to make us strong, just as we need the peaks to keep us hopeful.
The helpful perspective in all this is the knowledge, quite apart from our ability or inability, is that Christ has made us his own. You belong to Christ. He’s claimed you. He claimed you before the beginning of Creation!
Imagine that! Even before time began, Jesus claimed you. You’re on my team! Nothing can take that away from you. You’ll never be a free agent, you’ll never get traded. No matter how mediocre you are, you’re still called by God. You’re in the process of being made holy. You’re in the process of becoming what you are in Christ, you are holy. You are not yet perfectly holy; you are in the process of becoming holy.
This isn’t something that just happens to you, like burning a cd, writing a new code upon our hearts or something. It is a process. God graciously invites us to participate in it. We grow in holiness, as we learn and understand what Christ has done, as we learn who we are in Christ, and what he has called us to do! Like players on a team, we work together, as Christ’s body, learning how to become a better player, a better teammate. We learn from each other, we encourage each other!
Think about that this week. Think about who you are! Think about what Christ has done for you. Consider how you can live up to the calling you’ve received. Don’t think about what you can do to please God, or earn his favour. Think about how he’s pleased in you on account of Christ. Let that thought free you. Knowing who you are, live like it! Share the good news. Tell others about Jesus. Who he is, what he did. Go on! Get out there, and live, really live! Amen.