Text: 2 Corinthians 5
Main Point: Jesus reconciles sinners to God.
Today we take up the weighty and wonderful; today we rejoice over the Gospel and we answer the call to missions. As we begin, I want you to understand that one of the reasons for the gospel is also one of the greatest hinderances to missions. We need Jesus because we are self-centered, and we don’t tell the good news because we are self-centered. One express reason the Son of God took on flesh, lived a righteous life, died an atoning death, and rose again is because I love me some me and that’s nasty. Jesus died and rose again to break my slavery to put myself first. Jesus died and rose again to propel me out for the good of others. Jesus died and rose again to break your slavery to self and to propel you out for the good of others. So why do we not go to our neighbors and plead and pray and persuade? We don’t go because we are selfish. We don’t give because we are selfish. We like our stuff and our time and our work to get more stuff. May God open our eyes to our sin and give us holy motivations so that we enjoy the gospel and engage in missions.
Read 2 Corinthians 5
We start with
I. God’s Gospel
I say “God’s Gospel” because the gospel is God’s work on our behalf. It’s not “our gospel” because we did not plan our salvation, ask for salvation, or accomplish salvation. The gospel is 100% the work of God. 2 Corinthians 5 focuses on at least five different aspects to the gospel. Here’s the good news
- The good news is Jesus died for all (14)
In verse 14 we see clearly that one has died for all. Here is the redemption mission of Jesus. Jesus wants to bring us to God, and he secures the righteousness required and the payment for sin required. Jesus died and rose again to transform us. Out of this reality comes a new way of thinking about the people around us.
Sin and selfishness can take so many different forms. Sin and selfishness can take the form of greed, or racism, or anger, or sexual immorality, or laziness. If you’re like me, then you are really good at seeing other people’s sin. Let’s capitalize on that skill. What do all those sinful people doing all those terrible things need? They need the death of Christ to transform them. Surely this is substitution and atonement; Jesus died in their place to pay the penalty for their sin. But more than the deposit of Jesus’ payment to their account, there is the communication of Jesus’ death and resurrection that frees them from slavery to sin and selfishness. Jesus’ death and resurrection are payment and liberation. Jesus’ death for all is the good news that the worst most disdainful sinner can be changed. Do you believe this? The good news is Jesus died for all and
- The good news is Jesus transforms our lives (15)
Look at verse 15 and tell me why Jesus died. Jesus died because you are a selfish punk. Jesus died because I am a selfish punk. Students, kids, tell me, who’s Christmas list are you the most concerned about? We are all slaves of self who need to be transformed, empowered, and redirected. We want to put more stuff in our closests, but Jesus transforms us to seek the good of others.
One step toward transformation is admitting that we are selfish. Own your selfishness, call selfishness sin, and understand that it is sin worthy of death. God has promised to judge you for your sin of selfishness, and I am right there with you. The good news is Jesus came to transform us and
- The good news is Jesus makes us new (17)
Listen, you are not a good person because you give your Christmas presents to the poor. You are not a good person because you meet needs and right wrongs. We become good when Jesus makes us new.
Verse 17 tells us to be in Christ is to be a new creation. The old has passed away and the new has come. We receive the Holy Spirit now, who is the guarantee of the total transformation to come.
To be made new is to know, believe, and experience that Jesus’ death on the cross 2000 years ago frees you from sin and selfishness. True, you didn’t see Jesus’ crucifixion but you heard about it and you believe it. This faith is joining in with Jesus. Your sin becomes his sin; his death becomes your death. His life becomes your life. His righteousness becomes your righteousness. His love for others becomes your love for others. Trusting Christ is depending on Christ to pay for your sin and make you new.
It is true that this transformation is painfully slow but when Jesus returns, he will bring this work to completion. This newness, this union with Christ, is for the world and it is for God. Our union with Christ makes us a source of good in this world and our union with Christ makes us acceptable to God.
- The good news is Jesus reconciles us to God (18-19)
Looking now at verses 18 and 19 we see that Jesus is not trying to win God over from hating us to loving us. All this death, life, and new creation is from God. It is God the Father who is reconciling selfish punks to himself through God the Son. God the Father is reconciling haters of God to himself through the death of God the Son. Salvation produces treasuring God and loving others so that we die to self in order to win people to Christ. Christians love and depend on Jesus because Jesus brings us home to God.
- The good news is Jesus makes us the righteousness of God (21)
2 Corinthians 5:21 is the gospel in one verse, “For our sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
For us, for our good, for our benefit, and for our sake the Father sent the Son to bear our guilt, so that in Jesus we can become the righteousness of God. God our treasure is gained through Christ our righteousness. In a sense, getting to God requires the right credentials. If you don’t measure up, then you don’t get in. How then can selfish sinners get to God? Jesus is the way to God. It is the sacrifice of Christ that takes away our sin and it is the righteousness of Christ that makes us acceptable. Without Jesus taking our sin and giving us his righteousness, we could never enter the presence of the God we love. Jesus as the only way is why we pray in Jesus’ name and worship the Father according to the Son.
This is almost unthinkable, all of us sinners who trust Jesus to make us righteous become the righteousness of God. Jesus gives us, his enemies, the righteousness of God so that we can be welcomed in by God. That’s the gospel; now
II. The Mission
- The mission is persuade to others (11-13)
The mission is to bring others along with us as we trust Christ to take us to the Father. In verse 11, Paul says that we persuade others. This persuasion involves us convincing our neighbors to act on the truth that Jesus came, died, and rose again to bring us to God.
The rest of verse 11, plus 12 and 13, call for the rejection of manipulation as we seek to persuade others. We don’t use health, wealth, or power to entice someone to repent and believe in Jesus. We love people, we serve people, and we explain the gospel to people. The church, like its apostles, must be marked by persuasion but not by worldly manipulation. We do this work knowing God knows us and judges the work. Alongside persuasion is pleading.
- The mission is to plead for others to be reconciled to God (18-20)
Look at verse 18 with me, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
We, the reconciled, have the awesome ministry of reconciliation. Think about it, why does your neighbor sin in ways that wreck you? It is because your neighbor is cut off from God. How will your neighbor reconcile with God? Reconciliation happens as you warn about sin, preach and teach the gospel, and God reconciles your neighbor to himself through Christ. God has committed to us the word of reconciliation so that we can be instruments for reconciliation.
Look at verse 20, how does God make his appeal? God makes his appeal through us. You become God’s mouth. God plans to speak through you. Because of Christ and for Christ we beg, implore, plead, and beseech our neighbors to turn from selfishness to Christ. God help me to do this. God helps us all to join in God’s work of reconciling the world to himself through Christ.
Here is our mission: we exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ who love God and love others. Here is
III. Our motivation
God does not merely give us a job to do. God, in his kindness, also clarifies why we should go to our neighbors and the nations and beg them to be reconciled to God. We have already seen that we don’t work according to the world. We don’t use manipulation or depend upon outward appearances. So, what is going on in the heart of an ambassador for Christ?
- We are motivated by putting on our heavenly dwelling (1-8)
Chapter 4 clarifies that being an ambassador is costly work. 4:8 describes us as afflicted, perplexed, persecuted, struck down, and always carrying in the body the death of Jesus. We are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake. Death is at work in us. Outwardly we are wasting away. We groan under the prospect of pain and death, but we know there is more and better on the other side of death. Like Jesus, we do our work under the cross looking forward to the resurrection.
2 Corinthians 5:2 says we long to put on our heavenly dwelling. This is not the desire to get rid of the body like the body is bad. This is the desire to put on the glorified and immortal body. We want what is mortal to be swallowed up in victory. We are motivated to run hard toward the age to come when persecution, pain, and death will be no more.
Verse 8, we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. Forget Christmas presents; I want to be with Jesus. Forget my 50th wedding anniversary; I want to be with Jesus. Forget grandkids and retirement; I want to be with Jesus. We are motivated to take the gospel to the nations because then the end will come and death will be no more, our bodies will put on immortality, and we will see Jesus face to face. We are motivated by heaven to get to work. Here’s another desire
- We want to please Jesus (9)
Verse 9, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” If we are here, we are living for Jesus. If we are in heaven, we are living with Jesus. No matter where we are, we want the Jesus who loves us and fought for us and died for us and rose again for us to be pleased with us. This is not a debtor’s ethic where we mope around trying to pay Jesus back so maybe one day he will think the sacrifice of himself wasn’t a total waste. Instead, the gospel gives us the freedom of being fully loved. We can’t earn Jesus’ love; we can’t earn more of Jesus’ love. The gift Jesus gives us is the ability to live out of the fullness of his love.
Maybe you grew up in a home where you never felt good enough. You were always trying to do your best in order to earn your parent’s love. Some people become missionaries in an attempt to earn God’s love, thinking if I do enough then maybe God will like me and let me come home.
That is not the gospel. Instead, the gospel says God loved you while you were still an enemy doing everything displeasing (Rom 5:8). And 2000 years ago, Jesus did everything required to make you pleasing to God. It is Jesus’ work that makes us pleasing to God. Do you believe this? Can you rest in Jesus’ love or do you keep getting on the hamster wheel of works trying to be good enough?
Jesus says in John 15:9, As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love.” The infinite love is already there. The love of Christ for us is foundational. The already-possession of the infinite and personal love of Christ for us is the reason we obey. The love of Christ controls us so that we live lives pleasing to Christ. It is the experience of perfect love that drives Christian obedience. We are motivated to please the One who loves us perfectly.
- We are also motivated by the reality of judgment (10)
Look again at 2 Corinthians 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
Perfect love does not negate judgment; Jesus loves us and he will judge us. Our thinking, our personalities, our loving, and our doing are all deficient; and yet Jesus loves us perfectly! Jesus came to redirect our hearts away from loving self to loving God and neighbor. Jesus will come again to judge us according to the standards of loving God and loving neighbor. The good news is Jesus empowers us to meet the standards he will use for judgment.
So, how will Judgment Day look for you? Everything you have done, whether good or evil, will brought forward and receive its just reward. Jesus is calling us to be among the saints who know the perfect love of Christ and therefore seek to live out towards others the perfect love of Christ. To love like Christ is to work and sacrifice so that others turn from selfishness to Christ. Jesus is inviting us to trust him for life, love, and judgment. So, while we do have an honest fear of judgment and a desire to please our King,
- We are also motivated by Christ’s love (14-15)
I’ve been hinting at verses 14 and 15, now let’s bring those verses forward so we can think about them and obey them. The reason Paul no longer lives for self but lives for Jesus is because the love of Christ controls him. Paul has been mastered by Christ’s love for him. This mastery comes from a deep awareness of personal sin and an even deeper awareness of Jesus’ love and redemption. Paul is controlled by Jesus’ wonderful and life changing love for Paul. It is Jesus’ love for us that should control us. If you want to be controlled by love you must think about your sin and root it out with Christ-bought Spirit-empowered repentance. If you want to be controlled by love you must think about Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as his love that empowers your love. To be controlled by Christ’s love is to be thinking constantly about Christ’s love. We must make time to think about and abide in Jesus’ love. Jesus is calling us to do what we do for him and because of his love. This means
- We are motivated by a new way of looking at people (16-17)
The old way of looking at people is prejudging people as helpful or unhelpful, an asset or liability, an enemy or an ally in our cause. We size people up along the lines of if they can help us get ahead in this world. The new way of looking at people is to see one for whom Christ died. The love of Christ must then control us so that we willingly die for the redemption of that person. The gospel propels us to see people first through the lens of the love and death of Christ.
Embracing the death of Christ for all and the need for all to be born again makes us look at others in a new way. Paul writes in verse 16, “From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.”
We must view Christians according to their status as new creations. We must view Christians, with whom we disagree, as new creations. The love of Christ must control us as we listen to Christians with whom we disagree. The love of Christ must control us as we correct those who are in error. In an argument, lead off with telling yourself that this is one for whom Christ died. He is a new creation. She is a new creation. Pray for an increase of love and work for an increase in obedience. We know those who have been united to Christ have resources for love and sacrifice and self-denial that the world does not have. We must love one another more and we must demand more of one another.
I ask you, do you view your brothers and sisters according to Christ or do you view your brothers and sisters according to some worldly standard like beauty, finances, race, or politics? What do you see when you look at a person? Church listen, if we can do what Christ’s love calls us to then we will be so different from the world. Accepting our fellow church members according to their new creation status instead of according to the flesh and the world’s standards means we will have incredibly high standards of love and self-denial while refusing to judge people according to the world’s standards of beauty, finances, race, and politics. This does not erase our differences and certainly does not erase the need to correct sin. Love and judgment demand that we correct sin in one another, but regarding one another according to Christ means we have a radically different standard by which we offer real acceptance and meaningful friendship. The love of Christ must control us so that we can move beyond the factions and selfishness of our day. We must no longer live for ourselves but for Christ.
There is much more to be said and Lord willing we have many days ahead together to sort these things out. For now I want to ask us to consider how much the gospel has transformed the way we view others. Do we regard one another according to the flesh; according to masks and politics, finances and race? Or do we regard one another according to the love of Christ? May the love of Christ for each of us and for all of us control us as we move toward one another, listen to one another, and talk to one another. God help us live with high standards and even greater love.