II Corinthians 5:11-21
In a week from tomorrow, a media campaign will begin in Manitoba. It will not sell hamburgers or mutual funds. It will let the people of Manitoba know that there is power to change through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Beginning on March 19 and running until April 15, you will see testimonies by Paul Henderson, Catriona LaMay Doan, "Pinball Clemons, Billy Diamond and Marilyn Riechert as they share how God has changed their life. These ads will be on CTV on Global television on radio and also on various print media. Some have suggested that about 95% of Manitobans will hear the message of God’s power to change lives numerous times during that month.
Will you listen to the adds or will you do more?
Why should we as people who attend the Rosenort EM Church take this as an opportunity to share our faith with others? Why should we participate in something like this and stretch our faith and activate our will to serve God? When we did the evaluation of the eight quality characteristics last fall, we found that our least effective area was in need based evangelism. Power To Change is an opportunity to improve our least effective element. I would like to give you three reasons why I think we need to participate in the work of evangelism. The reasons are taken from I Corinthians 5:11-21, so I invite you to turn there now.
I. Because Christ’s Love Compels Us.
The first reason why we should care to become involved is because of the love we have experienced from God. Paul, in speaking about his own ministry says to the Corinthians in verse 14, “…Christ’s love compels us…”
A. Christ’s Love For Us
What he is talking about is the love Christ has for us. Do we realize the depth of Christ’s love for us? Let me share with you some of my experience of how I have come to realize that Christ loves me.
I became a Christian at age 9 and five years later at age 14, I began to live by the value of wanting to be popular. Even though I was a Christian and went to church and even was involved in leadership, the most important thing in my life was wanting to be a part of the “in crowd.” In order to be accepted, I did things that were not appropriate for a Christian - I sinned. Even after I rededicated my life and was baptized at age 16, I did many things which I don’t like to think about because I am ashamed of them. As a pastor I have done things and said things that were not honouring to God. I have often sought to please myself instead of God. I am a sinner.
It is a great thing to rejoice that our sins are forgiven the first time. For me, the love of God becomes precious when I understand that even after I gave my life to him and have sinned so many times, He continues to be patient with me and forgive me.
This gift of forgiveness is not a small thing. It is not as if he simply overlooks my sins. Sins are serious things. Whenever I sin, I reject the one who created me. God made me and when I do things that are wrong, I am in essence saying, “I don’t care what you think or want.” I slap God’s face in my selfish pride. Sins violate the image of God in me. God has made me to honor him and whenever I sin, I live in a way that is contrary to what I have been created to be. When I sin, I hurt other people. Of course, if I murder someone, or commit adultery, other people are hurt, but vengeance, anger, foul language and every other sin also hurts other people. When I sin, I also do things that hurt me. Sin may look innocent, but it is always destructive. It is obvious to us that if we sin by taking drugs or becoming drunk that there will be consequences to that which harm us. What we don’t often realize is that every sin is destructive to us. Jealousy is destructive of our peace of mind. Anger can have harmful effects on our body and spirit.
When God forgives our sins, he does not overlook all of these wrongs done or their evil. But he chooses not to hold them against us. We have done the wrong, we and others have suffered and when God forgives, He chooses to absorb the wrong.
He does so not because he is blind or soft, but because Jesus has paid the ultimate price through his death on the cross. We owe big time, but Jesus has paid for it and so we are free from the debt. Let us look at just one verse which expresses what God has done. Colossians 2:13, 14, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”
That is love and I John 4:10 says, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Jesus was at a dinner at the home of one of the Pharisees. When he was there, a woman came into the house and began to wet Jesus’ feet with her tears and dry them with her hair. The Pharisee was incensed that Jesus should permit this sinful woman to do this. Jesus told a parable about two men who owed a debtor large sums of money. One owed him 500 denarii and the other 50 denarii. Both of them could not pay the debt and the lender cancelled the debt of both of them. Jesus then asked the Pharisee, “which one will love him more?” Jesus concluded the scene with the words, “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.”
How much are we aware of Christ’s love for us? As a way of reminding ourselves of the love of God, I invite us to sing The Love Of God. page 67 verse 1
B. The Impact Of Christ’s Love
When we realize that we are greatly loved by God, that is the most powerful motivating factor in giving us a desire to share the great love we have with others. Paul goes on to say in II Corinthians 5:16, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” If we are aware of the love of Christ in our lives, we will no longer look at anyone in the same way. We no longer look at ourselves in the same way. All desire for selfish living, all need to find significance in a job or in a relationship with another person is gone because we become content in the fact that we are loved by the creator of the universe. We look at other believers differently. We accept them not because they are good or bad or friendly or shy, but because they and we are brothers and sisters who are equally loved by an all powerful and all wise father. Most significantly, we cannot look at unbelievers in the same way. If we know that we have been showered with love and have experienced the freedom and peace that God gives, how can we look at people who do not have this love in their lives in any way but as people who also need to experience God’s love in their life. We now look at the lost as those who are loved by Christ, but unaware of that love. We become motivated to let them know that God loves them.
In Acts 4:19-20 Peter and John were arrested for preaching the gospel. After being threatened to stop doing so, they replied, “we cannot help speaking what we have seen and heard.” O that we would be so aware of the great love with which God has loved us that we could not help but speak about Him.
II. Because Change Is Possible
I know that sometimes ladies like to go for a makeover. Although the change in appearance can be quite amazing, it is only the appearance that has been changed. The change does not last. A rain storm or a little hard work in the garden will soon wear off the effects of the makeover.
A second reason why we must become involved in sharing the gospel message is because the message of the gospel which we have to share is about real power to change.
A. We Are New Creatures
In II Corinthians 5:17 Paul says, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!”
The message of the gospel that we share is not a cosmetic change. This is no mere “makeover” but a true and complete inner change. God created us good, but when sin entered into our lives, because we were human and because we sinned, we were no longer good. Nothing less than a complete change would make enough of a difference in us to change us from bad to good. God has made us into something entirely new. We are no longer under bondage to sin and death. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who is renewing us day by day.
How many people in this world are longing for a complete change. We have the good news. In Jesus you can be a new creature.
Furthermore, the message of the gospel communicates real power.
Alcoholics Anonymous has developed a 12 step program of recovery from alcohol. It is a helpful program and has been a stepping stone for many people to recover from addictions. One of the steps of that program is that you need to rely on a higher power in order to gain victory over your addiction. I applaud the concept, but have always been concerned that, in that program, the higher power is not defined. For someone it could be Buddha for others it could be their spirit guide, and the problem is that these things do not have any power. The only one who has power to change is God himself. The gospel message that we are communicating is a message with power - the power of God who created all things with a word. The gospel message is not an invitation to remake ourselves. It is “in Christ” that the change comes and in Him there is real power. We cannot remake ourselves. The power of the gospel is a power which involves a change made by the Holy Spirit within us.
B. God Doesn’t Hold Our Sins Against Us
The other great change that Paul speaks about is that we are no longer accountable for our sins. Apart from Christ, we are going to die for the wrong things we have done. Through the death of Jesus on the cross God has made it possible that we can have our sins forgiven. In our sins, we are separated from God. We are utterly lost and will spend eternity in hell. By receiving the forgiveness of Jesus as we ask him to enter into our lives, we are made free of our sins and the consequences of our sin. Paul says in verse 18, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…”
I can’t imagine anymore what it is like to be in a position in which I would know that I am going to hell. How wonderful to have the full assurance that I am headed for heaven.
The testimonies you will see on TV will demonstrate how God has made a change in the lives of others. I would like to show you two of those clips to remind you that God has the power to change lives.
We need to be involved in proclaiming God’s good news because it contains the power to change lives. So many people are looking for some kind of a change, but are frustrated with the lack of power to make it happen. We know where the power for that change comes from and so we need to let people know.
III. Because Christ Has Called Us
The final reason why we need to become involved in doing God’s work is because God has called us to do so
We read a moment ago in verse 18, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…” But we need to read on in that verse and the next where it says, “and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 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.”
God has committed a task to us. It is the task of proclaiming the message of reconciliation. We are not here to reconcile people to God, but we are to proclaim the message that it is possible to be reconciled to God. We have an obligation, given to us by God to let others know that it is possible to be a friend of God. I like the way the Good News Bible puts it, “All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. Our message is that God was making the whole human race his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends.”
A number of years ago our family went on a vacation for two weeks. During the time that we were gone, one of the members of the church died. They were unable to get a hold of us, but they knew when we were coming home. At the time, we did not have an answering machine and so one of the other ministers in the church put a note on our door with the message that as soon as we got home, no matter what time of day it was, we were to call them. It was an important message and they took their responsibility to communicate that message seriously.
We expect that doctors will take their obligation to tell us the truth about our medical condition seriously. We expect that teachers will take their obligation to teach our children well seriously. How much more should we take the obligation that God has placed on us to communicate the message of reconciliation seriously.
B. Ambassadors For Christ
Another way of looking at this obligation is through the picture Paul gives us in verse 20 where he says, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.”
Think for a moment about the concept of an ambassador. If Canada wants to establish trade in Australia, wants to provide a way for its citizens living in Australia to still relate to Canada or wants to provide a contact for Australians who want to move to Canada, we do not send the prime minister to Australia to deal with every case. We send a representative of Canada whom we call an ambassador. Jean Fournier is the high commissioner to Australia. He has a commission to represent Canada and any Canadian concerns in Australia. He is the voice of Canada in Australia
What this verse tells us is that we are the voice of God on this earth. Look at how powerfully these words speak to us “as though God were making his appeal through us.” That is how it is. God speaks through us and we have the high calling of being heaven’s ambassador on earth.
For these three reasons, we need to become involved in the work of telling others about Jesus. Because we are so greatly loved, we are motivated to share that love with others. Because we have a message of power to change which the world needs, we have good reason to make the message known and because we have been sent by God to be His representatives on earth, we have a high commission.
Power to Change will give us some great ways in which to become involved in this most important work. I hope that it will also be a launching ground for us to make evangelism a normal part of our lifestyle. For now, I want to invite you to become involved in evangelism by participating in one or another of the following ways related to Power to Change.
1. In the bulletin, there is a card which gives you an opportunity to write down the names of people you know who don’t know the Lord. I invite you to write down those names and begin to pray for them.
2. Every Friday, at 10:00 there is a prayer meeting at the Morris Youth Drop In Center. I invite you to go there to pray for our community.
3. In order to make the most of these opportunities, we are offering a training seminar in our church on Thursday which will help you learn how to make a connection and talk the gospel. I invite you to come. The cost is only $10.
4. There are two events in Morris, which are being designed to bring people to hear the gospel. We are invited to join in as well, the times are in your bulletin.
5. Perhaps your gifts are more along the line of helping. If you would like to help, please let me know asap so that I can let those organizing know. They would like one or two representatives from each church. Please let me know today.
6. If giving is your thing, the P2C events in Morris need some financial support. I invite you to designate some of your giving to these projects.
7. On the power to change website, there are testimonies of people in Manitoba who have been changed by the power of God. You can put your testimony on that web site and then tell your friends about the site and they can look for your name. It is a great opportunity to share your faith.
8. God may give you a chance to speak to a friend about what God is doing in their life. As you ask the question, “what did you think about the ads on TV, you may have a chance to tell them about how God has changed you. Prepare yourself to do so.
The God of love has shown his love to us and through Christ’s death on the cross he has given us the power to change. Since we have experienced His love and power, we are his ambassadors who need to let others know about it. Will you become involved?