You and God

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You are God’s friend! Jesus died and rose to make that true! Then, He sends us as His representatives to the world.

April 7-8, 2018
Pastor Joe Wittwer
He is Our Peace
#1—You and God

Introduction:

Over the next several weeks, we are going to talk about the reconciling work of Jesus, that He reconciles us to God and to each other, and then sends us as agents of His reconciliation. I’m calling this series, “He is Our Peace,” which is taken from:

Ephesians 2:14 For He is our peace, who has made the two groups one, and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

Jesus is our peace. He is our peace with God, and our peace with each other. Jesus breaks down the barriers between us and God, and the walls between us. Both are important:

Peace with God ︎

Peace with each other ↔

Jesus died for both: to reconcile you to God and to each other. The gospel includes both peace with God and peace with each other.

ILL: How many of you want to fly in this plane? (This one is in the air courtesy of Photoshop!) A one-wing plane is doomed! It won’t get off the ground.

And a one-wing gospel won’t go far either. There is a spiritual wing and a social wing on the Jesus-plane! We need both wings.

Love God and love people.

Be reconciled to God; be reconciled to people.

Jesus died for both—to bring us back to God and back to each other. Too often churches focus only on one wing and ignore the other. Some churches only preach reconciliation with God, and ignore the social implications of the gospel—they are trying to fly with one wing. Other churches only preach a social gospel and ignore the spiritual—that we need Jesus to bring us back to God—they are trying to fly with one wing. We need both wings to fly, and the gospel of reconciliation includes both.

I am neck deep in racial reconciliation work in our community, and I’ll tell you why in one word: Jesus. I believe that Jesus is the great reconciler, and as we’ll see today, He sends us into the world as His ambassadors of reconciliation. The gospel is good news of reconciliation. The war is over this way ︎ and this way ↔︎. I believe that Jesus-followers should be leading the way in racial reconciliation—and not just race, but reconciliation in every arena—because the gospel is a gospel of reconciliation.

What is reconciliation? To reconcile is to make peace, to turn enemies into friends, to bring those who have been at odds together again in harmony. Over the next few weeks, we’ll seen how Jesus reconciled:

You and God

You and Others

Men and Women

Black and White

Today we start with You and God, and we’re going to read the classic passage from the New Testament on reconciliation. Open your Bible to:

2 Corinthians 5:17–21

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Two simple ideas:

  1. Jesus reconciles us to God.

18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

I want you to notice several things.

First, God did the reconciling. Not us. This was’t a negotiated peace between two equal parties. All the initiative, all the action was by God, not us. We were the ones who rebelled, who broke the relationship, yet God moved toward us in Christ to fix it. We were God’s enemies, but He was never ours—He’s always been for you, not against you. We turned against Him and we became His enemies, yet He is the one who moved toward us to reconcile.

Colossians 1:21–22 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation.

We were enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior. The problem was all us—the solution was all Him. We broke the relationship, but God reconciled us.

ILL: During the Revolutionary War, there was a pastor named Peter Miller who lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania and enjoyed the friendship and respect of George Washington. In that same town lived a man named Michael Widman, a troublemaker who did all he could to oppose and humiliate the pastor, including spit in his face, trip him when he walked by and once even punched him. One day, Michael Widman was arrested for treason and sentenced to die. Peter Miller traveled fifty miles on foot to Valley Forge to plead for the life of the traitor.

“No Peter,” George Washington said. “I cannot grant you the life of your friend.”

“My friend!” exclaimed the old preacher. “He’s the most bitter enemy I have; but I don’t believe he is guilty of treason.”

“What?” cried Washington. “You’ve walked fifty miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in a different light. I’ll grant your pardon.” And he did.

Peter Miller took Michael Widman back home to Ephrata–no longer an enemy, but a friend.

The enmity was all Michael; the reconciliation was all Peter. The initiative, the act of reconciling started with the offended, not the offender. So it is with God. The problem was all us—the solution was all Him. We broke the relationship; He moved toward us in Jesus to heal it. God did the reconciling, not us.

Second, God did it in Christ. Jesus came to bring us back to God. He did this by His death and resurrection. How did Jesus’ death reconcile us to God? It is tied to the idea of forgiveness for sin—God is no longer counting our sin against us. The Bible often uses the metaphor of debt. Has anyone ever had a falling out with someone over money?

ILL: I’ve had friends who owed me money and when they didn’t pay, it damaged the relationship. There was tension. The friendship suffered until I forgave the debt. As long as the debt hung over us, the relationship was broken. Once the debt was forgiven, we could be friends again.

Jesus told this story in Matthew 18.

A king decided to settle accounts with his servants. One of them owed him 10,000 bags of gold—each worth a lifetime’s wages for the average working man. 10,000 lifetimes of wages! That’s a huge debt! The man fell to his knees and begged, “Be patient with me and I’ll pay back everything.” There is no way he could do it—impossible. But the king felt pity, cancelled the debt and let him go. So who paid the debt? The king did. He absorbed the loss. Someone has to pay it—it ultimately cost the king.

The story goes on that this freshly forgiven man found a friend who owed him a few hundred dollars and demanded payment. When his friend begged for mercy, as he had just done with the king, he felt no pity but had his friend hauled to jail. This was reported to the king, who said, “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant as I had on you?” Jesus’ point: God has forgiven each of us an impossible debt, so shouldn’t we forgive others their smaller debts to us? Two wings on this plane! We are forgiven by God; so we forgive others.

Our moral debt to God is enormous—more than we can pay—and broke our friendship. So Jesus paid that debt for us on the cross. Paul described it like this:

Colossians 2:13–14 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.

God took your debt and nailed it to cross. There, on the cross, Jesus shouted in triumph, “It is finished.” This was the Greek word tetelesthai which means “paid in full.” This is the word that was stamped on a bill when it was paid. And Jesus stamped that word across our debt and nailed it to the cross. It is finished—paid in full.

The debt is gone—the relationship is restored. We can be friends again because of Jesus.

First, God did the reconciling. He took the initiative.

Second, God did it in Christ. Jesus paid our debt.

Third, God did it for everyone. Did you notice in verse 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself. Everyone! He paid everyone’s debt. He reconciled the whole world to Himself. That’s huge! In fact, what God did was even HUGER than that!

Colossians 1:20…and through Christ to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

God not only reconciled the world to Himself through Christ, but He reconciled all things—on earth or in heaven—the whole universe! Everything broken by the fall, by human sin and rebellion is redeemed, is reconciled and healed through Jesus! Huge!

Think of that person you love who is far from God. Jesus has already paid their debt and already reconciled them to God! God has done everything necessary to bring them back to Himself. He has removed the barrier between them and God; He has forgiven their sin; He has made a way in Jesus; He has offered the gift of eternal life and a new relationship. Now it’s up to them to receive it.

ILL: What’s your favorite store? Nordstrom, Costco, Cabela’s. Imagine that I take you to your favorite store and I say, “I’ve got something for you.” You think, “Joe is going to buy me a gift.” But I have something much bigger in mind. I hand you an ID and keys, and say, “I own this store, and I’m opening it to you. Come anytime and get anything you need. Anything, anytime. It’s yours. I’ve already paid for it—so just come help yourself.” How many of you would like that deal?

So now you know that the whole store is yours—you’ve got the ID and keys. There’s only one thing left to do to enjoy it all: believe it’s true and go get it!

Jesus bought the store and gave it to you! He’s given you a new ID: friend of God. To be reconciled to God is to become His friend, and to experience all that He has for His friends. Jesus paid it all—it’s already paid in full for everyone. Do you believe it? Are you ready to go get it?

Here is your new ID: what is true of you because of Jesus. I’m going to ask you to repeat these after me. Because of Jesus…

I am God’s friend.

I am God’s child.

I am deeply loved.

I am completely accepted.

I am fully forgiven.

I am a new person.

I am righteous.

That’s who you are in Christ! Believe it and go get it! Look at the last verse in our text:

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I call this the Great Exchange. God took our sin and put it on Jesus, and took His righteousness and put it in us. So when God looks at us, He sees Jesus—He sees the righteousness of God in us.

ILL: Friday I was in Eugene for my auntie’s funeral. Many of you know that my mom is one of 12 kids; 10 girls, 2 boys, with remarkable longevity. Nine are still alive ranging from 80-97. Aunt Norma, who passed, had just turned 99. At her funeral, the priest prayed that she would be received into heaven as a reward for her goodness. My first thought was, “That’s heresy—none of us are good enough; we get into heaven because of God’s goodness.” And then my next thought was of this verse—that in Jesus we become the righteousness of God. God gives us His goodness. That’s what He saw when my auntie showed up in heaven—the goodness of Jesus! That’s what He sees when He looks at you.

This is who you are in Christ. You are God’s friend! Jesus died and rose to make that true; don’t let it just sit there. Believe it and go get it! Live into it!

Jesus reconciles us to God, and…

  1. Jesus sends us as His representatives to the world.

18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

Jesus reconciles us and sends us. Notice how Paul repeats this twice:

  • God reconciled us to Himself in Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Reconciled and sent.
  • God reconciled the world to Himself in Christ, and committed to us the message of reconciliation. Reconciled and sent.

Once you are reconciled, you are a reconciler. Once you know your debt is paid, you let others know their debt is paid. Reconciled and sent.

I want you to notice what is true of you and me. We are Christ’s ambassadors. Would you say: I am Christ’s ambassador. What does it mean to be Christ’s ambassador? What does it mean for someone to be an ambassador for the US?

First, an ambassador lives in a foreign nation. He lives among people with a different language and a different culture. He is a stranger; he is not at home.

This is true of us as well. As Christ’s ambassadors, our citizenship is in heaven.

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.

As ambassadors of Christ, we are citizens of God’s Kingdom first, and so we are strangers and exiles here on earth.

1 Peter 1:1 To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, and the United States

1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.

We live in the world, we love and serve the world, but we know we’re not at home in the world. As Christ’s ambassadors, we are foreigners and exiles in our own homelands. We are citizens of a different kingdom, and our first allegiance is to King Jesus, not to the foreign land we live in.

As Christ’s ambassadors, I am a Jesus-follower first before I am an American. Jesus is Lord. The early Christians were often persecuted or killed because they wouldn’t say, “Caesar is Lord.” Jesus is Lord, not Caesar; and as Christ’s ambassador, my ultimate allegiance is to Jesus, not to Caesar or any other political leader, power or party.

I am Christ’s ambassador.

Second, an ambassador represents his country. He speaks and acts for his nation. When an ambassador from the US speaks, the US is speaking. He represents the US, not his own personal interests or agenda. This means he doesn’t act independently or on his own. He says what the President instructs him to say; he does what the President wants him to do. He represents the President, and our nation, not himself. And the honor of our nation is in his hands.

As Christ’s ambassadors, we represent Jesus. We are not free to do our own thing; we do what He wants; we say what He wants. We represent Him. And the honor of God is in our hands. Let’s represent Jesus well!

Ambassadors of Christ are constantly thinking and asking, “What does Jesus want in this situation? What would Jesus say right now? What would Jesus do?” We don’t always get it right—but that’s how an ambassador of Christ thinks. We want to represent Jesus well.

I am Christ’s ambassador.

As Christ’s ambassadors, we have been given a message and a ministry. Look at verses 18-19—it is the message and ministry of reconciliation. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation—that is, our work is to help people reconcile with God and with each other. We have been given the message of reconciliation—the good news that everyone is reconciled to God. We are God’s plan A to get the word out—He doesn’t have plan B—we are His ambassadors. If people get reconciled to God now, it is because we tell them the good news that their debt is paid.

I asked you to think of a friend who is far from God, and told you that Jesus has already paid their debt and reconciled them to God. Do they know? Have they heard this good news! It’s not hard to share news like this!

ILL: Last year I told you the story of the 2009 commencement at Azusa Pacific. Three graduates were introduced who were giving the next two years to serve the poorest of the poor in India. John Wallace, the president of the college told them that an anonymous donor was so moved by what they were doing that he had given a gift to the university in their names.

John turned to the first student and said, “You are forgiven your debt of $105,000.” The kid immediately starts to cry. John turns to the next student: “You’re forgiven your debt of $70,000.” He then turns to the third student: “You are forgiven your debt of $130,000.” All three students were blown away.

How much fun do you think that was for John Wallace to tell these kids, “Your debt is paid in full!”

How many of you would like to tell someone that? You can! You are Christ’s ambassador! You have been given a message: the good news that Christ has paid our debt, that we are reconciled to God.

20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

I am reconciled.

I am Christ’s ambassador of reconciliation.

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