Sermon Podcast Audio
This weekend a new Tom Hanks movie came out, “Bridge of Spies.” I heard it was really good, but I wonder if it’s as good as my favorite Tom Hanks movie, “Forrest Gump.” I love the character he played and how the movie intertwined fiction with historical events so well.
One scene in particular, I remember vividly. It was while he was serving in the Army in Vietnam. He’s walking through the jungle when suddenly his platoon is in the middle of an attack. Everyone tries to run away from the fire-fight and Forrest outruns them all, completely out of danger, to the edge of the jungle. But then, even in his safety, he realizes he doesn’t want to be safe and ALONE—so he runs back to get his best friend Bubba. On his way to Bubba, he comes upon an injured soldier, so he picks him up and carries him out to safety. Then he returns to find Bubba again. One after another, he pulls injured soldiers out to safety, never satisfied as long as Bubba is still not safe.
That storyline actually has a lot more to do with our own lives than you might think.
During the last blog, we came to the point in the Big Story of God where we learned how Jesus Christ offered himself on the cross to save every one of us who puts our faith in Him. We saw how Jesus was God’s fulfillment of the covenant, how he was the satisfaction of the law. He shed his blood as the final, all-sufficient sacrifice for our sins—finally restoring our relationship with God. But that wasn’t the end of the story.
Just as the movie “Forrest Gump” didn’t end with Forrest finding safety at the end of the jungle, the Big Story of God doesn’t end when one person finds salvation and a renewed relationship with God. No, the story must continue. There are still others stuck in life’s battle for their soul—and we are given the important role of bringing this salvation that Jesus offers to others.
The Big Story
Today, as we look at the Big Story of God, I want you to see how the story is being written in the present—God’s plan to rescue this broken world now continues through THE CHURCH. You see, Jesus came to this earth and fulfilled all that he was called to accomplish. But then he left. In his place he left people—people who were changed by their encounter with Jesus, people who were given the power of God inside them through the coming of the Holy Spirit, people who would continue the work of bringing restoration to this broken world.
In Second Corinthians 5, we find the apostle Paul explaining that mission to the church in Corinth.
Defining the Mission of the Church: Reconciliation
While I’m going to unpack all the text from chapter 5:14-21, I want to start with this main idea in verse 18. Here, Paul tells the church at Corinth about their mission–
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. —2 Corinthians 5:18
Basically, “God Reconciled you through Jesus, and now you have the ministry of bringing that reconciliation to others!”
To fully understand the significance of that, let’s look at that word “reconcile.” Reconcile – to reestablish proper friendly interpersonal relations after these have been disrupted or broken. In other words, reconnecting with an estranged family member or friend.
Now after learning about the entire arc of the Biblical story, doesn’t that sound like the perfect word to use? We are reconciled to God—through Jesus—the one who brings peace to the world, who brings peace between you and God.
So, now we join the Mission of the Church, which is to reconcile the world to God just like Jesus did. That’s our job. Just like Forrest Gump didn’t stop when he was saved, but he went back to make sure his friends were saved too—that’s ultimately our mission as a church. We are to make sure that every person who wants a restored relationship with God finds it through Jesus.
Motivation for the Mission
Now that we understand the mission we have been called to, both individually, and corporately as Jesus’ church on this earth, let’s look at the rest of this passage.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one dies for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for him who died for them and was raised again.
Your motivation to join the mission, to be willing to jump into the battlefield again, to offer reconciliation to the world, is that you first understand that JESUS DIED FOR YOU! When you understand that—when you truly get how great his love is—then you will be compelled to join the mission. Christ’s love compels us. His love was so great he laid down his life – FOR YOU!
Joining the mission of the church means that we stop living for ourselves and we start living for Jesus—the head of the church. This can be so tough, but this is what it means to be a Christian who understands the mission God has given the church. It means we put the mission before our own schedules, our own paychecks, and our own conveniences.
Lately, I was convicted of this myself—so I know—it’s an easy trap to fall into. But when we take our eyes off ourselves and put them on the one who offers us life, everything changes for the better.
Seeing the Mission Field
This is exactly where the passage continues in verse 16.
2 Corinthians 5:16
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
When we start seeing things the way Jesus does, through spiritual eyes, the world will look different to us. Paul even admits that in his day people were looking at Jesus through their own physical perspective. They expected him to overturn Rome, to be the king they were waiting for. They learned that they couldn’t look at Jesus through worldly eyes or he would be seen as an utter failure. However, seeing what he did on the cross through spiritual eyes, they knew he won complete victory for God and began the process of redeeming the entire world.
Now we too need to look at the world through spiritual eyes.
- People who hurt us aren’t the enemy; they are broken people in need of being saved.
- This world which seems so far from God is that way because of the Fall, going way back to Genesis 2. But whether people of the world know it or not, Genesis 1 teaches us they were created for relationship with God, and they are hungry to have that relationship restored.
- Our relationship with God through Jesus is actually what people desire—they want the peace we have.
How we interact with our co-workers, friends, and family members will be totally different when we begin to see their broken relationships with God as part of a spiritual battle raging all around them. Rather than being people we have to convince to believe like we do, we see them as people who actually want to be made right with God and simply don’t know how.
Application: Ministry of Reconciliation
That is our mission. God gave us this ministry of reconciliation. So, we need to know what it means to be ministers of reconciliation and what to do to fulfill our mission.
Non-Christians: Be Reconciled
The first thing you can do, just like Paul says later in verse 20, “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God” yourself. In order to bring reconciliation between God and those around you, YOU must first have been reconciled to God. You can’t offer something that you haven’t experienced. Some of you have been sitting in church for years, you have heard all ABOUT God and ABOUT Jesus, and now all ABOUT God’s grand story and plan to save us and to bring us back into relationship with him, BUT you still have never actually formed that RELATIONSHIP with God yourself. Some of you need to stop learning ABOUT God, stop praying to a vague idea of God in the sky, and make your relationship with God personal.
Quiet Christians: Be Rekindled
There are others of you that know you are reconciled to God, but you never say anything to anybody about Jesus for many different reasons.
- Maybe you’re tired or worn out.
- Maybe you’re afraid of how people will respond.
- Maybe you feel like you don’t know what to say or how to start a conversation.
For those of you who identify with these words, I think what you actually need is a fresh experience of the life-transforming power of Jesus in your life. You need your relationship with Jesus to be rekindled.
Trust me, I’ve been there myself and still find myself in this boat at different times. I have found a pattern in my life that I am WAY more likely to have conversations with people about Jesus after I have had a fresh encounter with Jesus or have had a week of great prayer time. Likewise, if my prayer life is stagnant and my relationship with Jesus turns cold, there’s little chance I will talk about him with anyone. At the end of the day, busyness, fear, or even self-doubt about your knowledge won’t stop you from being a reconciler with a person if you are experiencing a passionate relationship with Jesus.
The best part of having a conversation with somebody about Jesus is that often, that small first step actually fans the flame inside you to share. I’ve talked with many people who grow in their passion for Jesus and their confidence in talking about him with others after every encounter, no matter how small or inconsequential. Passion and relationship with Jesus grows through small steps of faithfulness.
Service Christians: Actions Alone are NOT Enough
Finally, I know many of us want those around us to be reconciled to God, and so we do all sorts of service to meet the needs of those people. We try to love them like Jesus loved them and do all we can to make them feel the love of God. Actions do go a long way, but WORDS of HOPE are necessary. When we get too wrapped up in serving others, we can actually miss our high calling of offering a restored relationship with people.
In verse 19 Paul says, “Jesus has committed to us the MESSAGE of reconciliation.” And in verse 20 he says, “… as though God were making his APPEAL through us.” Paul very much has in mind that being messengers of reconciliation includes words—telling people about Jesus, about the Big Story of God, about how we are separated from God because of the sin of Adam in the Garden, about how God made a promise to save us all, about how the Law could never actually save us, but how Jesus came to reconcile us, to redeem us, to restore our relationship with God! Our actions towards others are important and should never be belittled, but they are most significant because they open doors through relationship for us to SPEAK the Life-Giving message of Jesus.
Here’s the important thing to remember from today: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection was a game changer in the Big Story of God, but there are still so many people who haven’t heard about him or haven’t understood how Jesus actually changes things. That’s a job God has left to us, his Church, to finish. We are the hope for this broken world.
And since the story is still being written—my question to you is: What will your part be? Who are you going to share the message of Jesus with? Right now, I want you to think about who is in your life that needs to be reconciled to God. Now, will you commit to praying for that person until they meet Jesus? And will you look for opportunities to talk about Jesus with them? Or maybe, as we come up to this Christmas season, you could invite them to church to hear about Jesus.
Can you imagine what God could do through Ashworth Road if we all were stirred in our passion for Jesus—if we understood our role to offer reconciliation to others. If we were so passionate about our relationship with Jesus that we didn’t let fear hold us back in explaining this Big Story to our friends and co-workers. Imagine if we recognized that being a reconciler means more than serving people—it means telling them the Good News or inviting them to church. It requires seeing people as Jesus does, seeing the spiritual battle raging for their souls. It requires speaking life-giving good news to people hungry for something that actually offers contentment and peace and joy.