2010-06-06 (am) 2 Corinthians 5:16-6:2 50 Reasons Part 4
I’ve been thinking a lot about reconciliation lately. Not simply because of this sermon series, but because of relationships I see around me. I know that there are strained relationships in my neighbourhood. Heck, even the Olympic gold medallist figure skaters are getting divorced!
There are, of course, all kinds of celebrity break-ups. But closer to home there are strained relationships between husbands and wives, between siblings, between parents and children. It is everywhere; it is in every family. It affects everyone. Everyone here probably knows of people needing reconciliation, and quite possibly, everyone here this morning needs to be reconciled with someone somewhere.
And for anyone who is in need of reconciliation, whichever side you’re on, you know that it doesn’t come easy. What is reconciliation? The act of reconciling. What has to happen? Well, when relationships become strained, the natural reaction is to build defences and put of offensives. We put up walls that protect us, and we fire off salvoes, pre-emptive strikes to protect ourselves. With reconciliation, the weapons are laid down, and the defences have to be removed. It is costly.
So, on three different Sundays we’ve been looking at the cost of reconciliation, what it cost God to reconcile sinful humanity to himself. John Piper’s book, “The Passion of Jesus Christ, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Came to Die” has been our guide, as we’ve looked at the broader point of reconciliation described in our passage.
Our first point this morning is, Jesus came to give us a clear conscience.
1. To Give Us a Clear Conscience
Consider Adam and Eve, in the Garden, they’ve just conversed with the devil. Forbidden Fruit juice is still sloshing in their mouths. They look at each other and realise everything has changed. They hear God in the garden. Their first inclination is to run and hide. Immediately, there’s a separation between them and God. There’s a separation between each other. They now know shame.
They can no longer look at each other in innocence. “Eve thinks to her self—wow, Adam’s really letting himself go.” Adam’s thinking, “I wonder what other women look like.”
The curse of sin, death, could have come immediately, but God in his grace allowed Adam and Eve to live, to continue to fulfil the mandate he gave them, to fill the earth and subdue it.
But the consequences of their sin also brought curses upon themselves. I’ve already mentioned their fear of God, and the beginnings of their separation from Him to the point that we have people baldly proclaiming there is no God. Oh, how I wish they’d see the light!
But there were huge implications for human relationships: Eve will desire her husband, and he will rule over her, it says in Genesis 3:16. The start of the mother’s relationship with her child would be marked by great pain.
All this shows that the wages of sin, brought about difficulties in relationships. Hence the need for a reconciler, the need for Jesus Christ. But what was it that sent Adam and Eve hiding in the garden? Their conscience.
They knew they’d sinned. They didn’t need God to tell them. They knew it in their hearts! And we know it too, don’t we? We know when we’ve done wrong. Oh, sure, there are times when we can rationalise and justify ourselves, but deep down, we know the truth. For knowledge of good and evil did come with the fall.
No matter the good we do, no matter the penance we try to put forth, no matter how good a day we have, no matter how much we give to charities, we cannot get rid of our conscience. We know, deep down, we cannot appear before God. So, we run and hide as Adam and Eve did, like King David. How did it go for them? God found them, right? David says, in Psalm 139, there’s nowhere to run to.
But God sent Jesus, to be the perfect offering, the perfect gift, to clear our conscience. How does that song go? “Were the whole realm of nature mine, would be an offering far too small, love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.” That’s what Christ, willingly, graciously, gave at the cross, for you, and for me. So that, when we stand before God as Adam and Eve did, and will do again, we stand in confidence, not in ourselves, but in Christ, who wipes our consciences clear.
Think about that! Think about what Christ did for you, on the cross. Stop listening to the accuser! Stop dwelling in, and drowning yourself in self-pity about your own sin! Shut out the accuser, firm in the knowledge of Christ, who clears your conscience.
2. To Obtain for Us All Things That Are Good For Us
Concentrate on what we’ve received from Christ—all that is good for us, our second point. When you think of heaven, what picture comes to mind? If you picture heaven without God, then you’re not really thinking of what the best gift of all is.
Consider what Adam and Eve had in the garden. They walked with God. They had perfect fellowship with him. They could ask him anything they wanted. Hey, Father, why do the seeds grow they way they do? How do they know which way is up?
Consider yourself being in a perfect relationship with God. All sins gone, blocked out, forgotten, moved as far as the east is from the west. Being able to approach the most holy being, and talk to him. Imagine receiving from him the greatest gift of all, himself.
And what does it mean to receive God? It means that we already possess that which will make us most happy, right now. God doesn’t promise to give us everything we want. God promises to give us all that is good for us.
Troubles? They are good for us. Hardship, excellent for us, just what the Father ordered. Did you know that all Jesus’ disciples were martyred—John was exiled to the island of Patmos and likely died of old age—though in exile? Did you? They all lost their lives on account of their faith in Jesus. They willingly went to their death, they suffered and counted themselves as blessed because they suffered, for they saw it is filling up the afflictions of Christ. They didn’t care about their bodies in this life! They were looking forward to eternal life with Christ. So they lived for the sole purpose of telling the good news, even if it cost them their lives!
God promises to give us what we need, all the good, so that we can stop sweating the small stuff, and focus on the big stuff, telling others about Jesus who died to reconcile them to himself. God knows the number of hairs on your head! Do you really think he can’t get you what you need to provide for yourself, for your family? Do you think he won’t teach you how to manage your money so that you can be financially responsible? God will, and God does, but we so often turn away from God’s plan. Why? Because we think our way is better, or because we think God’s way is too hard.
God’s way is the best way, and he’s given us the ability to do it, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Okay, that doesn’t mean I’ll run a 4 minute mile. But it does mean that I can live a holier life than I’m living now. I can take care of my responsibilities. I can obey God’s will for my life, to do justice and love mercy, to be obedient, to teach obedience, to manage well what he’s given me. And so can you. Make the decision, and just do it!
3. To Heal Us from Moral and Physical Sickness
Isn’t that exactly what we see Jesus doing during his earthly ministry? Our third point brings us right to it, to heal us from moral and physical sickness. We’re morally corrupt, as to our sinful natures. Completely morally corrupt.
I love reading the news. Why? Because it convinces me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God is in control. If he wasn’t, this world would be a much more horrible place. Seriously. Look at the current events, Israel and Palestine, North and South Korea, Kandahar and the rest of Afghanistan. Not to mention civil unrest, the economies of Greece and Spain, and possibly most of Europe.
But do you know what the greatest fixation the world has right now? Health. We’re obsessed by it. We’re paranoid about health and safety. Look at all the laws! Do not smoke, here, here, here or here! You can harm yourself, but don’t you dare harm anyone else!
And we extend this to all of creation. The earth is in a precarious balance. The oil in the gulf, the extra carbon dioxide spewed out by the industry will tip us over the edge, the earth as we know it will die, and we’re the cause.
But we know that from the beginning, from the fall, all creation has been groaning under the curse of sin. It’s true, it is human caused, but not by the way that we think. The world awaits the coming of her king and creator. Jesus’ healings and resurrections pointed the humans to his ability to overturn the curse of sin. His power displayed by his walking on the water and calming the storm proves his ability to undo the curse upon the earth.
One day, Christ will come again, he will wipe every tear from our eyes, why? Because we won’t suffer ever again. He will renew and restore his creation, a new heaven and a new earth. Death is defeated!
And what do we do while we wait? We pray for healing from the healer—we’ve seen his power at work in us, in our congregation haven’t we? Nancy, Glenn, K.J. and many, many others! All of it is pointing to the future, pointing to the one who is to come.
4. To Give Eternal Life to All who Believe in Him
And that’s the promise of John 3:16 & 17, isn’t it? Jesus promises everlasting life to all who trust in his promises. Think of all the best things of this life. When I do, I think of relationships, good relationships I have with friends and family. Do you ever have it, when you know you’re moving, or a friend moves away, and you just won’t be able to spend the time you’d like to be able to spend with them anymore, or if a friend passes away, you just ache, you miss them so much!
Eternal life with Christ, is the promise that not only will the worst things of our life on earth will pass away, but the best things of life will continue! Consider it! The best things of this life, having fun with friends, laughing, spending time, being in good company, those things will continue! They will be even better!
Truly, the things that God has planned for us in eternal life with him are beyond our comprehension! It will blow us away.
I’ve just decided that we’re not going to get to our fifth point. I’d like us to stop for a second and consider what we’ve learned, what we’ve gained through Christ’s ministry of reconciliation.
Look at God’s amazing grace! Look what Christ suffered! Look at what we’ve gained! Everything good, eternal life, healing, a clear conscience! Now what are you going to do with them?
Please don’t hang onto petty differences. Please don’t hang onto stubborn, self-righteous pride. Put on Christ. Be like him. Go to those whom you’ve offended, those who’ve offended you and lay down your life for them. Lay it down. Give up on your need to be right, or justified, or whatever it might be.
Consider what Christ did for you, and do that to others. Don’t look at me, look at Christ. Look at what he did. Look at the cross, let it remind you of the pain, the torment, the hell that was experienced, so that you don’t have to experience it.
So what does this mean? It means that we can move ahead with a clear conscience, because Christ clears it, we don’t. It means that we can seek reconciliation, because such reconciliation is made possible by Christ. It means that we can offer reconciliation, knowing that the offence was paid by Jesus, we don’t need to demand it anymore. It means that we can pursue better and deeper relationships with others.
I know what I gotta do this week, do you? Let us pray: