Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ministry Matters 2006: The Heart of Christian Ministry 3

The Servant's Convictions (2 Corinthians 5:1-21)

If we are to keep keeping on, then we have to focus our eyes on what we cannot see. We say, keep your eye on the, keep your eye on the future, the goal.

There is a reference to the return of Jesus once every few verses in the New Testament. That's a lot. Even when the apostles preach the gospel, they are conscious of the kingdom that is to come.

Power in weakness
Power is seen in human weakness, jars of clay. Now in its measure and not yet. We live by faith and not by sight. Not "if God will show himself to me I will believe in him". We believe on basis of what God has spoken and what he has done. That's why there are no images of God. Because images would limit God to the human mind. That's why we use words. Power is not built not on our personal experience but on God's word in Scripture.

Now and "not yet"

1. Convictions About Life Beyond Death (5:1-10)
(a) What do we know? (5:1-4)
The first 4 verses are very eloquent statements of Christian realism. The contrast is between what is seen and what is unseen. What is seen is the earthly tent in 5:1 and it is temporary. But we have, each of us, a permanent home in heaven. We know that death is a reality, and our earthly tent isn't permanent; it doesn't have foundations. The point about a tent is that it is packed up and brought somewhere else.

Jesus uses the imagery of a house in John 14 (there are many rooms in my Father's house), but it's not same image here. Here we will have a resurrected body not made by human hands. It is a body recognisable by the disciples. When he uses present tense, he means permanency and certainty, not immediacy. It is an expression of that which is yet to be fulfilled. When we get called, it is to a much better home.

Some people can't cope with heaven. David Watson, the great evangelist, used to tell a great illustration. If you talk about heaven to non-Christian, they think it strange. They hope there is something but don't really know. So there was a man who asked a Christian,"How is your wife?"
"She is in heaven."
"Oh, I am sorry!", the non-Christian said, then thought it was the wrong thing to say. So he said,"Oh I am glad!" And then he had another go:"Oh I am surprised!"

We groan (not moan), longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling. When the children were young, school hypes them up for Christmas. They are groaning for it by November. When is it coming? When can we have the toys? Groaning.

While we are in this body, we groan and are waiting for the new body. The resurrection body is not like Plato where soul is liberated from the body. Disembodied souls. Angels floating around in heaven in white nighties strumming harps. No, we want a resurrection body that is substantial like Jesus', living in a new heaven and new earth. Not an eternal song singing session. Our theory is derived not from the immortality of the soul but the resurrection of the body. So we don't have a death wish but we are longing to be resurrected without any of the limitations that we experience in our current mortality.

People worry whether they will still be Christian in 5 years, 10 years. When they are 64? Well, walk with him today, and then tomorrow, and it's surprising how all the tomorrows lead you to 64.

We all don't know about death but we aren't to fear it or be anxious about. We are focused on what is not seen. When I was a young Christian, I remember thinking "I don't want Jesus to come soon because I want to do this and that ministry, get married etc". But our longing not to have the mortality of the current body grows more and more the nearer you get to death.

(b) How do we know it? (5:5)
5:5 tells us that 2 things are important. It is God who made us like this, groaning. When we anticipate heaven, it is God's sovereign purpose that is at work. The present proof of that is the Spirit. It is the Spirit that groans, he gives us the longing, he gives us the desire. He is the downpayment, guarantee of what is to come.

What do we know? There is life beyond death. How do we know it? The Holy Spirit is living in us now. The Spirit is the guarantee. The full experience of God will one day be ours in heaven.

(c) Why do we know it? (5:6-10)
Why do we know? What is the point of knowing?

Why are we given this information? So we are always confident. We can live confidently. This is important for biblical ministry because we can do Christian ministry courageously without any hint of despair. If we are Christian, then the Spirt has taken on permanent residence in our lives. But we know that our current bodies are not our permanent residence. Paul calls that permanent residence, home (v8). Our heavenly home is the resurrection body with Jesus. We don't see the eternal realities yet, we can't see it but we focus our eyes on it and make our way towards it. The way confidence grows is by hearing it, understanding it, and asking God to give us help in living it. That's where our greatest fulfillment will be.

We must live carefully because we need to give account to God of what good gifts he has given us. So to please the Lord is our goal and No.1 objective. We can do good, love God, love neightbour. We want our lives to be all pleasing to Jesus and we want to do this because Jesus has died on the cross for us.

Now let me talk about this judgement seat. It is not the same as judging between life and death. John 5:24 says that whoever hears Jesus' word and believes God has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. That is, the verdict on last day has already been made. Romans 8:1 tells us there is no more condemnation for believers.

But there is an assessment of lives and service. Whether our lives were good (in 5:9). Whether we have invested our lives in a worthwhile way as Christians or whether in a worthless way. Remember the man who had 5 talens was given 5 more.

5:10 - are you ambitious to please Jesus in your life? Did you make it your goal?

The more we are aware of the unseen realities, the more we are wanting to please him. There will be an evaluation of our service. Don't live aimlessly, don't live carelessly.

Why are we given this convictions? They are given to us so we can live confidently and not carelessly. It's a good start to day. As we start we can ask,"God, please help me to be pleasing to you". And at judgement seat he will reward those who have pleased him.

2. Convictions About Life In This World (5:11-21)
(a) A new commission
Since we have these convictions, then we try to persuade men (men in the generic sense including women too obviously). Remember 4:2 and 4:5. We are insistent on using our lives to please Jesus. Paul wants them to be rightly motivated to live their lives for God. There is nothing hidden from God.

They have no hidden agenda. They want to persuade men to put their trust in God. If we have an eye on the heavenly realities, we just want to be gospel servants.

The mark of genuineness is faithful gospel work.

5:13 - if you think we are mad, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. Once I was accused by my congregation of being too obsessed about evangelism. I wish I was. (Of course it is possible to be so "obsessed" by evangelism that we can't communicate normally. We just bucketload the gospel onto other people.)

That is his commission. Commission needs a compulsion.

(b) A new compulsion
From 5:14 to end of the chapter. The love of the Lord Jesus for us and for everyone in coming to die on the cross so that everyone who trusts in him will die to self and live for him.

"Compelled" means to be squeezed in so that you can't move forwards or backwards. Squashed in. When I took the Northern line on the tube in London, it would get so packed that you couldn't move at all. So when the MRT is crowded, think about the love of Jesus that compels this ministry.

5:15 - it is not automatic but it is possible. So it is no accident that those who are believers have the experience of dying to sin and to self. Living a new life no longer for themselves. It's a great motivation to see people turned around, isn't it? Living for Jesus' sake.

Not only are we changed but how we are viewing other people is also changed. How do we look at other people? In 5:16-17, it is a totally different worldview. Jesus is Lord and we want to please him. That is how Paul regarded the historical Jesus. Compelled because we have a different view of life. Paul saw Jesus' love for Saul of Tarsus so Saul of Tarsus died and Paul lived for God. New creation is the product of the new covenant sealed by his blood. What are the characteristics? No longer living for ourselves but for Jesus. We have a great relationship that we want people to share.

So this means I don't have to judge who will become a Christian. "Oh, I'll talk to this one. He looks like he could become a Christian." Think about it: would any one have thought that we would become Christian? We don't know when God will turn on the radio. It's like there are loads of radio waves going on now. We just need to tune the radio in. So we never know when the Holy Spirit is going to tune someone in. That's why we keep using the opportunities. Never write anyone off, never say it's too late. Grannies included.

The mystery is God's mystery. Our job is to tell the gospel as effectively as possible, using as many opportunities as we can, as sensitively as we can.

5:18 onwards - because God himself has reconciled us to himself, we have the ministry of reconciliation. Why does he say that to people who have already been reconciled? Because the gospel is not just the start of Christian life but we must continue being reconciled with God, keep on in the gospel, not move away from the apostolic gospel.

An ambassador doesn't make up the message. He gives the one that his sovereign or president has asked him to give. We have to pass on God's passage that we have to be reconciled with God.

Reconciliation is not what we have accomplished when we lay aside our enmity to God but what God has accomplished when in the death of Christ he put away everything on his side that estranged us from God. He put away his wrath.

5:21 is one of the great gospel statements. By doing this, God made it impossible to count our sins against us because Christ has taken the sin for us. Martin Luther called this "The Great Exchange":"Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness and I am your sin. You took on you what was mine, you set on me what was yours".

And in light of that how can we fail to live this way?

2 Corinthians 6 - don't think you can go back to the experience of becoming Christian but let it mould you. "Now is the time of God's favour; now is the day of salvation" (6:2). While it is a great appeal to the non-Christian, it is also to the Christian: today we are experiencing his grace in our lives. Living in this world with an eye on eternity.

We know so, we are compelled to tell others and we tell others so that they can live. Don't belong to the "when I" tribe. Live in the now but now-and-not-yet.

Project Timothy: Ministry Matters 2006
Ministry Matters 2006: The Heart of Christian Ministry 1 (The Servant's Calling)
Ministry Matters 2006: The Heart of Christian Ministry 2 (The Servant's Confidence)
Ministry Matters 2006: The Heart of Christian Ministry 3 (The Servant's Convictions)
Ministry Matters 2006: Preaching and Christian Ministry 1 (The Necessity of Proclamation)
Ministry Matters 2006: Preaching and Christian Ministry 2 (Giving and Listening to Talks)


At April 08, 2006 8:32 pm , Blogger Rajesh Rana said...

u got great blog.....


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