1 CORINTHIANS 5:17–19 ESV
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
19 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.
The emphasis last week was on asking the Lord to bless the mess that is our lives, but also understanding that when He blesses the mess, the grace He gives in the blessing transforms our lives. Grace is a motivating force of God, that moves our hearts for Him and for ministry. Today, we turn and look at that motivating force and see that with God’s grace there’s really NO MESSING AROUND.
The text for today is 2 Corinthians 5:17–19. The passage begins with one of Paul’s favorite words, ‘therefore’. Paul is drawing a conclusion, saying in the text that if we are in Jesus Christ—believing and trusting in Him—then we are something new. The old way of living is gone. There’s a new reality, free of fear and shame, and full of trust and righteousness.
If we really stop and look at it, its not hard to see that what God has done in our lives is extremely serious. He has looked upon the face of the earth, plumbed the depths of its brokenness and offered a solution that covers all manner of sin and evil. God is reorienting the world and He’s doing it in an extremely intimate and personal way. He is changing the human heart. But each and every human heart must trust in Him in order to initiate that transforming grace. God will not live our lives for us. He will, instead, live out His perfect will through us.
Paul calls that perfect will, that business-of-God, a ministry of reconciliation. It means that God is resolving two kinds of conflict. 1) the conflict between us and God. Without Christ in us, we stand far off from God, unable to stand with Him for eternity, a problem He desires to fix through the cross. And the other conflict is 2) between us and the life we are to live here and now through grace. It’s no surprise, when you think about it, that our minds and hearts are bent toward our own selfish desires, our own darkened understanding of things. God seeks to undo that way of living and thinking. He wants to resolve the issue, remove the conflict, and empower us to live free of fear and shame.
Jesus actually deals with this situation in a meeting with a Pharisee named Nicodemus. READ JOHN 3:1-5. Nic comes to Jesus in the middle of the night. He’s seen Jesus work and heard His message. But there’s something more that’s needed. He needs to see Him face to face. He needs to look Jesus in the eye and have words of hope spoken over him. He’s hoping Jesus isn’t messing around.
And Jesus gives him the answer, one that is seemingly hard to understand at first. The answer is wrapped up in something that is required in order to truly experience the kingdom of God. One must be born in a new way. The Greek translation in John 3:3 means simultaneously ‘born again’ and ‘born from above’. The point here is that we are made right and new through the power that comes only from above. God makes us a new creation, a redeemed person that lives differently in a world that is now different to us.
When we accept the difference God gives and live differently in the world, we enter the ministry of reconciliation. We take on the work of God in our lives. We stop messing around. To be born again, having new eyes to see and new ears to hear, means that we cannot see the world the same anymore. We understand that people are hurting and that messing around and not taking life seriously is to put peoples’ hope at stake. Eternity hangs in the balance.
Let me ask the hard question this morning: are you messing around? Have you been born again, born from above? Do you see what God sees? Do you care about what God cares about?
This church has decided not to mess around in addressing the deeper needs around us. We want to take seriously the pain that surrounds us and offer hope in new ways. We’ll be doing that through the Tillman campus in just a few short months. This week, in fact, a team from this Church is headed to Campbell High School to stand with its principal and leadership. We are seeking to be in solidarity with the students and faculty who believe that schools are targets for evil (and we ask that you will pray for us).
So…hear the good news: God has received you in Jesus Christ. That is good news because we do not deserve to have our trespasses and debts wiped away. And yet, God loves us. He has desired to bring us in, and if we will accept that grace, we can in response to it, turn and give it to others through a ministry of reconciliation.
God is not messing around. You do not send your only Begotten Son to cover the sin of the world as a lighthearted gesture. God has made a decisive and serious decision to accept the pain of loss by sending Jesus Christ to live, die, and resurrect so that we might have life and abundant life, all to be to shared with a dying world.
Souls are at stake. There’s no messing around when the prize is eternity. Will you meet us on the battlefield for souls? Will you take the love, and mercy, and grace of God seriously? Will you receive it for yourself, and then give it to those who were once where you were? Will you have a ministry of reconciliation? Let’s make that decision today.