July 26, 2015
Message, Tim LaFleur, Discipleship Pastor
Good Morning. If you have your copy of the Word of God, turn if you would to the book of II Corinthians and Chapter 5. The book of II Corinthians and Chapter 5.
While you are turning there, let me remind you that during these days, we have been studying about the cross as the wisdom and power of God. The world thinks the cross is foolishness. The world thinks the cross is weakness. But it is really an instrument that God uses to display His wisdom and His power. We are to boast only in the cross. We are to share the message of the cross. We are to share with a lost world the idea that Jesus Christ has provided salvation in Him and there is salvation in no other.
Last week, we talked about the Word of God and specifically the love of God and how it was revealed in the Word. It was not only declared by His Word, but it was demonstrated and proved by His death on the cross and you and I can share that love that we have received from God with others.
Today we are going to talk about reconciliation. And the title of the message is, “The Great Exchange.” Let me ask you a question and I want you to listen carefully, have you ever found yourself in the middle of a relationship gone bad? I mean, you have got some friends or there is a couple that you are close to and for all practical purposes, it seems that these people at one time really loved one another, but now they seem to hate each other. And because you are friends with both, because you are close with both, you find yourself kind of caught in the middle. People are taking sides. There is much drama. And the situation seems to be hopeless. People are hard headed. They are stubborn. Somebody needs to make the first move but they claim to have irreconcilable differences. Have you ever been there?
Today we are going to talk about a relationship gone bad, not the kind between a couple in conflict or best friends fighting. We are talking about the kind between Holy God and sinful man. Look at II Corinthians Chapter 5 and we are going to consider two verses at this time and then we are going to go through 21. Look at 5:17 and 18, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself (look at it) through Jesus Christ, ad has given to us the ministry of reconciliation.”
During our time together this morning, here is what I want to try to accomplish. I want to remind you of a couple of timeless truths and the first is this: I want to remind you that if you are in Christ, if you’ve been to the cross and embraced it, if you have received the message of Jesus, if there has been a moment in time where you have turned from sin and transferred your trust to the living, resurrected Christ and He has come to live within you, I want to remind you that you have been reconciled to God through the power of the gospel. But not only that, because you have been reconciled to God through the power of the gospel, you now have the ministry and the message of reconciliation in the gospel.
And I want to share these truths with you so that you and I can have boldness and confidence as we live for God and share the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
So lets go to God in prayer. Father, we love You. We are asking God that You help us to see truth from Your Word. We pray as the psalmist did, open Thou mine eyes that I might behold truth, wondrous truth from Your Word. And I pray it in Jesus’ name and for His sake. Amen.
As we examine this passage of Scripture, notice the first truth. You have been reconciled to God through the power of the gospel. The Apostle Paul said in Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek, for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. As it is written, the just shall live by faith.”
This was Paul’s battle cry. He not only proclaimed the gospel, but he said, we turn from our sin and we place our trust in Christ. We embrace the truth about His death, burial and resurrection. He told the Corinthian Church in I Corinthians 15, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also receive, how that Christ died for sin according to the Scripture, how He was buried and how He rose again the third day.” Bless God, according to the scripture.
As Janda sang, Jesus Christ is alive. He is no longer on the cross. He lives. Bless God, on the third day He rose again, conquering death, hell and the grave. I believe Paul highlights this in Romans Chapter 5 when he talks about the gospel. Look at it. Romans Chapter 5 and Verse 10. When you get there, say “Word.” Romans 5 and Verse 10. You see, in Paul’s mind, it is not only about the sacrificial death of Christ, but it is about the saving resurrection life of Christ. Now we are dealing with His death, but make no mistake about it, in Paul’s mind, it was the total package. It was the whole of the gospel. Not only His death on the cross but He didn’t stay there. He was buried and on the third day, He walked away from the tomb. And next week, we are going to talk about our identification with that.
Look at Romans 5 Verse 10. “If when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” Look at it. “How much more shall we be saved by His life.” Do you see it?
When you and I come to faith in Christ, the resurrection life of Jesus Christ indwells us. Paul would say in Romans that the same power that raised Christ from the dead will one day quicken your mortal bodies. Why? Because He indwells your mortal body. We are going to talk more about that next week.
So let me ask the question, what is the gospel? The gospel is the truth and the implications concerning the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Do you see it? That is the gospel we preach. We preach good news! Amen? That Christ lived a sinless life, that He died for our sins, that He was buried, but on the third day He rose again and one day He is coming again! We preach the gospel. We preach good news. And so you and I are saved through the power of the gospel. We are reconciled to God through the power of the gospel of Jesus.
But what is reconciliation? What does it mean to be reconciled to God? What does it mean? Literally, what that word “reconciled” means is to change or exchange, to change…if you are taking notes, write it down…to change or exchange. J. I. Packard helps us. Here is what he says, “Biblical reconciliation is a change in one’s relationship to God.” But it is more than that. It is to exchange hostility toward God for friendship with God. And here is what he means. You used to be the enemy of God. You used to be alienated from the life of God. You used to be His enemy. You used to be a friend to the world. That makes you the enemy of God. But now, through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, you are now the friend of God. Isn’t that amazing? Isn’t that wonderful?
But it is more than that. I want you to notice verse 21 of Chapter 5 of II Corinthians, our text. Look at Verse 21. This is an amazing verse. This is what theologians have called The Great Exchange. Look at it. “For He made Him sin who knew no sin, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Look at it. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf,” would be another way to say it, “that you and I might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Now let me explain it so that we can all understand it and I pray you are listening with spiritual ears. Consider your life and the totality of your life to be this giant, moral ledger. So we have this giant, moral ledger. Every event that you and I ever do are recorded on this moral ledger. On one side, there is your life. On the other side, there is the life of Jesus. So every thought, every word, every deed, every action, every attitude is recorded. And I know what you are thinking, I don’t want this recorded for everybody to see because I know I am a sinner and I fall short of the glory of God. And think of it as not only the bad things you do, but even the good things you do. So we are thinking, there is this mixture of good and bad and some way we pray and hope that our good outweighs our bad.
But if you are a Bible student, you say to yourself, oops, I read the prophet Isaiah and he said, even our righteous deeds are as filthy rags when compared to a Holy God. Do you see it? So your life, good and bad, but it is really all bad when you compare your life to Him. Spurgeon would say, there is enough sin in our tears of repentance to condemn us. That is how holy God is.
Now Jesus’ side of the ledger on the other hand, is perfect obedience, holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners and yet the friend of sinners. Jesus has a perfect moral ledger.
Here is what God does in reconciliation and it is glorious. There are three truths that He does so that you can understand the full extent of it and feel the weight of it. Here is what He does. He cancels…Number 1…your sin debt. We have been talking about that the last couple of weeks. We talked about propitiation last week and it was the love of God that drove Christ to the cross and while He was there, He became the atoning sacrifice for our sin and He canceled our sin debt.
But it goes further. He not only canceled our sin debt, He charged our sin to Christ’s account. Can you imagine that? Jesus Christ takes our sin. But here is what is more glorious than that, God, in the work of reconciliation, credits our account with Christ’s righteousness. So He cancels our sin, He charges our sin to Christ and He credits our account with Christ’s righteousness. So when you are born again, when you have come to faith in Jesus, when you repent of your sin, put your faith and trust in Him, the living resurrected Christ, here is what He does. He comes into your life and at that moment, as part of your identity, you are clothed with the very righteousness of God. Amen? You are not just a pardoned sinner. The sin debt has been canceled. In justification, it is just as if you had never sinned. But it goes further. Your sin is charged to Christ and Christ’s righteousness, His perfect obedience is credited to you, so you stand before God as not only a sinner saved by grace, but you stand before God as a saint, clothed in the righteousness of Jesus. That is amazing! Isn’t it?
You and I ought to be jumping up and down and whooping and hollering, amen? Because we are the righteousness of God in Christ. Why? Because God in His grace, reconciled us to Himself. And so now you are a friend of God. You were hostile toward God. Now you are the friend of God.
Jerry Bridges helps us. “In the same way that our sin was transferred to Christ’s account, our lives are credited with the perfect obedience of Christ when we trust in Him.” Do you see it? So now there is no enmity between you and God, now there is no separation between you and God. Now you are the friend of God. The sin issue becomes a fellowship issue. Why? Because you have a new identity in Christ. It is not a separation issue anymore. You can never be separated from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. We saw that last week. That will never happen.
Now your fellowship with God is separated and damaged and harmed. Why? Because we choose to do our own thing rather than submitting to God. But in reconciliation, He cancels your debt. He charges your sin to Christ. And He credits your life with Christ’s righteousness.
Consider the second truth. Not only have we been reconciled to God through the power of the gospel, but listen, now we have been entrusted with the ministry and message of reconciliation.
Look at Verse 18, “And has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” Look at 19, “the word of reconciliation.” “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses against them, and has committed to us the world of reconciliation.” We are involved in ministry now. Here is what God does: He takes you out of the world, gives you a new identity, to fellowship with Him and His people and then He sends you back into the world with a ministry. That is why as pastors, we equip the saints for the work of the ministry. All of us are engaged in gospel ministry. We are gospel co-workers. There is no such thing as just a member.
I talked to somebody in the congregation and they said, well, I am just a member. No, no, no, no. You are a gospel co-worker. Amen? And you have got a ministry of reconciliation. If you have been reconciled to God, God is going to work in and through your life so that you can help others in this ministry of reconciliation. And the same way that God loves you and you share that love with others, God will work thorugh you to help others to be reconciled to God.
Not only that, but the scripture says in Verse 20, look at it. “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ.” You are an ambassador. Think of this place as an embassy. We gather together to be strengthened and encouraged and to exalt the Savior. We gather together to be equipped. But now you go back out to a lost world as ambassadors for Christ. The word “ambassador” in the language of the New Testament literally means one sent with a message. That is what the word means.
Warren Wiersbe helps us here. When Paul uses this word “ambassador,” especially writing to the church at Corinth, they immediately know what he is talking about. It is a very interesting word picture. There are two kinds of ambassadors in the ancient Roman world. The first is a senatorial ambassador. They minister or they work toward senatorial province. But the second kind is an imperial ambassador. And that is the kind he is talking about here. Imperial provinces were those provinces that were hostile toward Rome. They weren’t very compliant. Senatorial provinces were, but imperial provinces were not very compliant. They wanted to do their own thing. They were way on the outskirts usually of the empire. And so what Rome would do is, they would send ambassadors there.
Now here is the important point. They are not sent to negotiate a response. They are sent to deliver a message. Here is what God does. He sends us as His ambassadors into a hostile world and that world is becoming more and more hostile, isn’t it, to the gospel and the things of God. We don’t go out to negotiate a response, we go out to declare a message. Amen? And look at the message. As though God were pleading through us, “we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” That is our message. Be reconciled to God.
There is to only the ministry of reconciliation, but there is the message of reconciliation. We share Christ in the power of the Spirit. We leave the results to God. We don’t negotiate the response. We declare the message.
A beautiful picture of reconciliation in scripture is the little book of Philemon. Philemon is Paul’s friend and co-worker. And so what Paul does is he writes Philemon a letter concerning his runaway slave, Onesimus. Do you recall this story? It is one chapter in the whole book. The little book of Philemon. And what Paul does is, he writes to Philemon telling him about his encounter with Onesimus. Here is what Onesimus did. Here is the back story. He stole from Philemon and he fled to Rome. Well, in the providence of God, he runs into the Apostle Paul. Paul, as he always does, delivers the message. He is an ambassador. He knows who he is. He shares the gospel with Onesimus. Onesimus receives Christ and then is gloriously saved. And so what Paul does is, he writes Philemon saying, listen, Philemon, I am sending Onesimus back to you. I don’t want you to receive him as a runaway slave. I want you to receive him as a brother in Christ and I want you to welcome him back home.
And in Verse 18 in the book of Philemon, Paul said, “If he owes you anything, put it to my account.” If he owes you anything, put it to my account. What Paul is saying is, listen, I am going to pay any price so that you and Onesimus can be reconciled. And it is almost kind of tongue-in-cheek really when you know the back story because Philemon owes Paul everything because Paul led Philemon to faith in Christ and then discipled him. And so Philemon owes everything to the Apostle Paul. And Paul says, listen, you receive this guy, not as a runaway slave. I know his crime is worthy of death. You receive him as a new brother in Christ. And that is what Jesus does for us, Amen? He allows us to be reconciled to God. We are the ones who are rebellion. We are the ones who were hostile toward God. But God, in His love, sends Jesus. He cancels our sin debt. He charges our sin to Christ and He credits our lives with Christ’s perfect obedience and now we stand before God reconciled to Him. Do you see it?
A couple of walking points and then I am done. If you are here this morning and you have never trusted Jesus. If there has never been a moment in time when you have turned from your sin and put your faith and trust in Him, you are not a Christ follower. You have never done that or perhaps you made some sort of decision when you were a child but really it hasn’t impacted or changed your life. Your name might be on a roll. You may have been baptized, but you know in your heart of hearts you are not right with God. You have never been reconciled to Him. I plead with you. I implore you on Christ’s behalf. Here is the message: Be reconciled to God.
In a moment, Pastor Steve and I will be at the front and we will receive people. If you want to be reconciled to God and it would be our joy, our pleasure to take the Word of God and help you to see how you can be saved.
This message of reconciliation is a message of peace. You can have peace with God. Turn in your Bible to Colossians Chapter 1 and Verses 19 and 20. Colossians Chapter 1, 19 and 20. “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him reconciling all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven,” look at it, “having made peace thorugh the blood of His cross.”
Listen, you can have peace with God. You were the enemy of God, but now you can have peace with God. It is a message of grace. “For by grace you have been saved thorugh faith, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God, not because of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” It is all because of grace. Listen, you cannot earn your salvation. Not of works, lest anyone should boast. It is a gift.
I challenged you last week to stop long enough to let God love you. Let God envelop your life with His love and with His grace and save you. Let the finished work of Christ reconcile you to God. Would you trust Him today?
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. The blood of Jesus, as they sang about, cleanses from all sin. If you are far from God, you can come back to Him today. Would you be reconciled to God? I encourage you to do that.
The second walking point is this: And this is for most of us. If you are a believer in Christ, act like it! The scripture says, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.” When you and I as believers act in a manner worthy of the gospel, the gospel becomes more believable. You are an ambassador for Christ, whether you realize it or not and you are either a good one or a bad one. I challenge you, be what God has called you to be.
When you were saved, the righteousness of Jesus, we saw in reconciliation, was imputed to you. As you walk with Him, that same righteousness is imparted to your life. And so, as you are depending upon Him for strength, live what you profess to believe. Live what you profess to believe.
Not only talk a good game, but walk the walk of faith, trusting in Christ. Are there going to be hiccups? Sure. Are they going to be mistakes? Sure. Is there going to be sin that creeps in? Sure. But you deal with those things on a daily basis. You come to the cross. And that is what we are going to talk about next week. Daily, to find victory over self and to allow the Christ life to be rich in you.