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Sermon July 29, 2018

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1359

July 29, 2018 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus

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

 

Transformed and Transferred”

 

I want to begin today a series on what I am calling ten passages of Scripture that every Christian should know, every Christian should master, or every Christian should cherish. I’m not ranking them in any order of importance or particular flow of themes, but simply ten passages that the Lord has impressed upon the church over many years. There may be some that would be in your top ten but you may not find in this top ten. That does not disqualify your list! Nor will it disqualify this list. In fact, I would invite you, after these ten Sundays to let me know which passage you would like to include and I might tackle them in a future sermon. I have them listed in the bulletin today so that you can call me out on not including Psalm 23 or Genesis 1 or whatever passage you would like to see here.

 

Today we bring with 2 Corinthians 5. The primary verse is 17 - Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Before we get to that, let’s back up to verse 14 which is our first point in the bulletin outline.

 

  • Love of Christ Controls 2cor 5.14

 

2 Corinthians 5.11-15 11 Therefore, 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. 12 We 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. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 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.

 

Paul begins this section with his favorite word, “therefore”, and the therefore is building off previous discussion but in this case it is also revealed in the next phrase. “Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord.” How have they come to know the fear of the Lord? Back in verse 5 we learn that God had done it...by the Spirit, Paul and those who follow Jesus have been given the fear of the Lord. And we might recall that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge (Proverbs 9.10). Paul is leading up to this incredible truth in what God has done for us in Christ… “for the love of Christ controls us.” When the fear of the Lord comes into our lives, the reverence for God, the respect and awe of who God is and what God has done, we come to see that that fear is not frightening type of fear but a reverence that leads us to see and yield our lives to God’s love in Jesus Christ.

 

When Paul writes that the love of Christ controls us, this control is in the sense of compelling us and leading us. It is not a control in the sense that it forces us in any way. We are not coerced or manipulated, but invited to yield ourselves to that which will be better than if we went about our lives on our own. This is the love of Christ that is so compelling and so beyond any love we have every known, we cannot help but desire to live in that love. It is the love we see in 1 Corinthians 13 – 4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 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.

 

  • Transformed to Newness 2 cor 5.17

 

2 Corinthians 5.16-21 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. 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. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

Because the fear of the Lord and the love of Christ have transformed Paul and all who believe, there is a brand new vision for those who know and love and follow Jesus. We no longer see believers with regard to the flesh, that is no longer Gentile or Jew, no longer black, white, red or whatever, no longer rich or poor, no longer any distinction according to flesh or worldly standards. We now see all believers as one in Christ. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. If we meet a believer from any part of the world, we don’t see anything but Christ and the Holy Spirit who unites us. We all are new creations. Everything is transformed. Everything changes. All our old perspectives that led us to make snap judgments on people are no longer relevant. All our old habits that categorized others are abandoned. Now, this does not happen over night, because we continue to draw back to the old and sometimes resist the new. But our view should be forward trusting that God has made us a new creation. God has wiped clean our old ways and old self and old sins. Behold! See! Recognize that God has done a new thing in you and me and us.

This transformation is known in many places throughout the Scriptures. It is known in Israel’s exodus from Egypt, in Israel’s life of rebellion and redemption throughout the Old Testament story. It is known in Jesus Christ in a multitude of ways. The rest of our outline looks at these places in the Bible where transformation and transfer has occurred.

 

 

  • Transferred to Christ’s Kingdom

 

Turn with me to Colossians 1:13,

 

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

 

The transfer is made in the transformation of deliverance. God, in Christ, has taken us out of the kingdom, the domain, of darkness and sin and made a transfer. He has moved us to the kingdom of Christ, a place of light and renewal and forgiveness and grace. It is the condition of salvation and freedom unlike anything we could ever have even in a free society and nation like our own. Yes we love our free nation, but it still falls short of the freedom and security and hope we have in the kingdom of God. My imagination runs back to my childhood and Robin Hood and King Richard. I think of kingdoms in those terms of fighting for what is right against corruption and serving God in earthly kingdoms as well as the heavenly kingdom. This transfer from darkness to light is a realm of existence that we spend our lives seeking to know and understand and live. I look at this way, we live in a different realm than the world. Yes, we are in the world, but as Jesus prayed, we do not have to of the world. I was once in a discussion about faith and life and I said something that brought the response, “You are living in a different world!” Yes, I guess I am. And we are for we are living in the kingdom of God, as citizens of heaven, baptized into the family of God. We certainly participate in this world, but we have our eyes focused beyond this world to the kingdom of God. “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Ours is a view and a faith that reaches far beyond the restraints of this world.

 

 

  • What God Has Done

 

As we look back to the transformations in the Bible we might include Ezekiel 36 where Israel had profaned the name of the Lord and God promises to cleanse them with water, a foreshadowing of baptism, delivering them from sin and idolatry. In verses 26-27 God says,

 

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

 

This is being made a new creation! A new heart, a new spirit. It is the only hope for the lost and the only hope for the world. No political movement, no economic solution, no new theories or offerings of the world are going to bring forth the “answers” to our problems. It is only in God’s work and grace and mercy that we will know a really new thing. God, in Ezekiel 36, at that time was promising what He was going to do. I will give you a new heart...and in Jesus Christ He has given us a new heart, a new spirit, and all who believe are a new creation.

 

Or take the work God has done revealed in 1 Peter 2.9-10,

 

9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

 

Once again we see the transformation and the transfer from darkness to light, but what is also seen here is the recreation of a people. We are made new creatures by receiving the mercy of God, by having been forgiven, by the new thing God has done in Christ. This is the good news that we offer people who have no hope and who have nothing to live for and who are lost in their sins. This is what God has done for the world and Peter goes on later in this same chapter to make it even more clear...

 

1 Peter 2.24-25,

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

 

The old is gone, the sin, the guilt, the shame. The new has come – living to righteousness. This is what God has done in Jesus Christ.

 

  • What God is Doing

 

But there’s more! God has not just done things in the past, but He is doing something today, right now, in each of us and in the church.

 

Philippians 1.6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

 

I fall short of God’s glory, you fall short of God’s glory, but the good news is that God is working to help us get closer to that glory. God is at work in us through the Holy Spirit and through His Word to enable us to die to sin that we might live to righteousness. God is active to bring His work to completion. And here is the work that is going on...

 

2 Corinthians 3.18 [We] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

 

It is the work of God’s Spirit that empowers all we do. This is why we ought to be thinking God every single day, for He is working in us and transforming us closer and closer to Christ and the glory of Christ.

 

 

 

 

  • What We Shall Do Rom. 12; Col. 3;

 

Romans 12:1-3; I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

One negative and one positive, I would guarantee if you do the positive, you will complete the negative. The negative – do not be conformed to this world. We see it every day, people conforming tot he ways of the world. In fashion it is the latest fad. In nutrition it is the latest diet. In finance it is the latest investment. In medicine it is the latest pill. The list goes on and on and the problem spills over into the church and the Bible as people try to twist the Truth into what the world wants to hear. The positive – transformation comes in renewing the mind according to the Word of God, the Truth of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit. But we have to yield our own wills and obey the Word. Yes, God has done tremendous things for us and God is at work in us and God has made us a new creation, but there is still work for us in faith.

 

So the apostle Paul adds in Colossians 3.5-17 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

We make the effort, by the power of the Spirit, to put off the old in order to to put on the new. We also have work to do, not God’s initial transformative work seen in 2 Cor. 5.17, but the ongoing work of sanctification, of growing into the new creation every day. This work is also empowered by the transforming Holy Spirit and the living inspired Word of God.

 

For most of us the last thing we want to do is add one more things to do to our list. Instead we might practice removing (putting off) items from our list in order to put on that which is more essential. We might put to death those things that are not reflective of the new creation and put on everything that demonstrates to the world around us a new thing. 2 Corinthians 5.17 is a foundational verse for the Christian faith because it shows us what God has done in Christ, what God is doing in Christ, and what we are doing in Christ. Let us make it a core verse in our mind and heart, that we might walk and live as new creations. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. Amen.