Sermon July 12, 2020

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1453

July 12, 2020 2 Corinthians 5.1-21

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“All Things New”

 

 1For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

 6So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.

 11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

 16From 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. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

  • Standing in Good Courage

 

There have always been times when God’s people have been called on to stand firm and be of good courage.

 

 1After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' assistant, 2“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. 4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. 6 Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1.1-9).

 

How is it that Joshua can be strong and courageous? Verse 5-6 says that just as God was with Moses, now God will be with Joshua. God says, I will not leave you or forsake you. That is reason enough to be courageous. And when repeated in verse 7, be strong and courageous, it is followed with how that looks! Being careful to do according to the law – obedience. Speak the Word. Meditate upon it. Do it. Three times Joshua is told to be strong and courageous.

 

The Psalms join in as well, one example is Psalm 27.14, Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! Sometimes courage is shown by waiting for the Lord. Strength is found in waiting on God to act. Wait. I was thinking about this with regard to all the mess going on in our nation. I wonder if the so-called silent majority is waiting for the Lord.

 

2 Corinthians 5 begins with Paul talking about our earthly bodies and our heavenly bodies. I love the way he frames it with what we know… “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God...” That is the topic of the first five verses. This is what we know. While in this earthly existence we groan, that is, we yearn for our heavenly life. In the meantime we groan over sin and death and chaos and all that is going on in a broken world. But even through that, even through all that we see going on in the world and in our country, God has given us the Spirit (vs. 5) as a guarantee that there is something better on the way! We know this without a doubt. This is our comfort and our strength and our reason to have courage.

Because of all this about our bodies and our future, Paul says we are always of good courage. We have faith that God has indeed prepared a heavenly existence, heavenly body, heavenly place for us and our future is secure in that knowledge. This is what we know.

 

  • Walk by Faith, Not by Sight

 

Then in verses 6-7 Paul writes, We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7for we walk by faith, not by sight. The is the second thing he says we know. We know that we walk in a very different way than other people, that is, people who do not have faith in Jesus Christ. We walk by faith and not by sight. We walk by the promises of God, both in we have seen kept and fulfilled, and by those yet to be fulfilled. We walk in the hope and faith and love that knows Jesus Christ and Christ crucified and raised from the dead. We know. There is no doubt and there is no doubt even more today because we are seeing people all over the place who have no faith and no hope and no love. It tends to push me further into faith and learning more about what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.

It seems to me that it would be very difficult to walk by sight these days because we cannot believe everything we see or read or hear. And we have always known that...but now deciding on news sources is a chore, social media is filled with truths and lies, and who knows what our friends and neighbors are buying into or what kool-aid they may be drinking. Because so little of what is seen is trustworthy, I find that faith is actually an easier route! I would rather trust in God and walk by faith than choose anything of the world in which to trust. Just about everything pushed on us in the world is a false narrative repeated over and over again to draw in those who walk by sight. Our physical eyes might deceive us, but we walk with spiritual eyes, with the eyes of Scripture, the lens of God’s Word to guide us through the lies of the world.

The result of that is in verse nine, we aim to please the Lord. If you want to know how to walk by faith, begin with this aim, to please God. Do what is pleasing to the Lord. The Bible is filled with all the things that are pleasing to God – walking with God, showing mercy, loving God and neighbor, worshiping in spirit and truth. Check out these three passages:

 

Psalm 147.10-11 His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, 11 but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.

 

1 Thessalonians 4.1-8 4 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.

 

Hebrews 11.6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

 

God takes pleasure in our reverence (fear) of Him, our hope in His love, walking in His will (His holiness), so we walk by faith because without faith it is impossible to please God.

 

  • The Love of Christ

 

Note in 2 Cor 5, verse 14. In the ESV the phrase is “the love of Christ controls us”. This is control is in the sense of compelling us and leading us, with God’s steadfast love. It is not a control in the sense that it forces or coerces or manipulates in any way. But it is a love so compelling that we cannot help but desire to live in that love. When we live in this love, the love of Jesus Christ, we come to see even more the reality of 2 Corinthians 5:15 that we do not live for ourselves.

...and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

 

We do not live simply to make more money, to be socially on top, to be famous, not for self achievement, not even for our own self esteem, but we live for Christ. Whether we live or die, it is all for Jesus Christ. But we know that our tendency is to live for ourselves. We look out for number one. We deserve a break today. I’ve got to get mine while I can. How is this going to affect me? This is why we need to confess our sins so often, because of our desire to live for self. We revert to the old and ignore that in Christ we have been made new. God does not just clean everything up to the point that we never are tempted again or never struggle with the old nature, we still struggle. But what has happened in regeneration is that we are now capable of choosing the right – something we could never do in our old nature. We are still able to sin, but the deeper we work into our newness in Christ, the greater we will be able not to sin.

When I think about being in the love of Christ and not living to ourselves I remember the verse about taking captive our thoughts.

2 Corinthians 10:3-6 3For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, 6being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.

We face spiritual enemies and as new creations in Christ we seek to take every thought captive so that we might obey Christ. This is the goal – obedience – the goal of our new life. We take thoughts captive by making scripture our thoughts! Think biblically! When we think biblically we begin to think and act as a people who are new creatures. We allow Christ’s love to shepherd us along and we do not consider our needs alone. We begin to act and live as the new creation that God has made us.

But Paul is also talking about taking captive arguments and lofty positions that are against God’s knowledge. That means we are taking captive false narratives, lies, and the mindless speech that seems to have taken over the public square, news media, and political discourse. In this day and age it will take courage to take the thoughts of the world captive to Christ. The mindless ones are all around us seeking to cancel our voice and thus to cancel out Jesus’ voice.

 

The good news is that we have been reconciled in the love of God (2 Cor 5.18-21). We have been set right by the God who is love. God’s love is the initiating force behind this work. There was a divide, a broken relationship between God and humanity and God wanted to heal that relationship. Paul reveals to us this powerful message of reconciliation, of reunion, of reclaiming God’s people in Christ. We have been given a great gift in that God has brought us back into a healthy relationship with Himself through Christ. We were separated from God through our sin and we had no way back to God! We were lost with no hope of getting back home. And if it were left up to us we would not have even cared to find our way back. This is a life marked by chaos, not even considering a way to reconciliation with God. But God took the steps necessary, God initiated the plan to bring us back and in so doing brings us back to the senses we did not even realize we had lost through our sin. God ordered life out of our chaos of sin and death. We were so easily deceived by our own sinfulness that we did not even know that our life was to be found in communion with God. God brought a new thing, a new order to our lives.

So Jesus Christ who knew no sin became sin, that is, he took our sin upon himself in order to reconcile us to God. In order to bring us home, Christ took on the burden that separated us from our Creator. I do not think we can fully understand the depth of that act. Jesus never knew what it was to disobey God. He did not experience the sin that we hold on to so easily. But God’s love was so strong, and Christ’s will so obedient, that he took on our sin in order to make us the righteousness of God.

 

  • All Things New

 

One of the major works of God is to make things new. God brings order out of chaos. God’s mighty deeds might all be summed up in bringing order out of chaos. There is always debate about the meaning behind Genesis 1 but let’s consider, for the sake of my argument this morning, that the meaning of the earth being formless and void is that it was in chaos or disordered, and when God spoke of light and waters and land, He was bringing order to the formless mass. God has been bringing order to chaos ever since.

When the people of Israel cried out to God to deliver them from the chaos of slavery, we know as the oppression of Pharaoh, God delivered them from Egypt. He brought a new thing among them, a new order for life. When sin and death ruled in our hearts bringing chaos and disarray, God sent His only Son to die on the cross in order to bring order for new life. These moves are seen all over Scripture, calming the storm at sea is bring order from chaos. Exalting the humble and humbling the exalted – order to the chaos. Healing those who were lame or blind or leprous were all accounts of Jesus bringing order where there was only chaos. To this day God works order out of chaos: order out of what we might call unprecedented happenings, order from instability, order in relationships between peoples. This is why we continue to work in the ministry of Christ to reconcile, because he has worked the order of our lives out of and away from the chaos of sin and death, slavery and oppression. The work has already been done on the cross and any who try to stir up chaos are really acting against what God has already defeated because of the victory in Jesus.

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Do you perceive it? The chaos of the old self has passed away and God has done a new thing in us by reordering our lives in Christ Jesus. Now we are new creatures, refreshed people of God. We are made new in Christ! That newness gives us so much joy, because we are made new and we are given a new perspective on everything. Because God has worked a new thing in His people, we see things much differently than the rest of the world. We are not blinded by the chaos around us, but we see through to the truth that is Jesus, Savior of the world and the worker of new things.

 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). God is giving us new mercies every day, new ways to see the world, new insights into His Word, new life and new light to speak order to death and darkness. Because God has done a new thing in us, we are called and compelled to bring this news of order and life to others.

 

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise (Isa 43.18-21).
God has been making new things since creation, through the prophets, in Jesus Christ, and still today.

 

What shall we say to all this?

We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (5.20).

 

God does not force reconciliation upon us. God does not force or coerce, or pressure, or manipulate us toward a right relationship with God. God has simply done all the work of reconciling and then calls us to come. Be reconciled to God. Be confirmed in God. Be reborn, made new, and open yourselves to a new beginning. We can start over with a genuine inner transformation as a new creation in Christ. In that rebirth, we are also called to implore others to be reconciled to God. If there is one answer that will turn the chaos of the world into the order of holiness, it is people being reconciled to God. We may not have influence in many places where we see the worst of humanity, but we do have influence in our part of the world. Let us implore people to come to Jesus and in so doing we can be a part of making the world a better place, and all things new, one converted sinner at a time. Amen.

 
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