GOD HAS A GREAT MESSAGE FOR US
Dear Friends in Christ,
One of our nation’s abominable sins is definitely killing unborn babies through abortion declaring it to be a right and legal. We, as a nation and world, have devalued life. An article appeared this week that caught my attention. The discussion was over the issue of “when does life begin?” A woman said the Bible settles it. It perked my interest. Her answer made me sick – “when the baby takes his first breath.” I assume she was quoting from Genesis when God breathed into the breath of life and man became a living soul. I assume then that as long as the baby is in the womb it isn’t breathing and therefore not life and qualifies to be aborted. After all that is our right. The fetus (how I despise that word) has no rights.
Yet the Spirit-inspired Psalmist writes, “For you (God) created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body.” The dear Lord is watching over every life conceived in the womb and supervises the baby’s growth. Don’t tell me that the Lord considers a baby life only when it is able to fill his lungs with oxygen.
Look what sinful humanity has done to such and extraordinary aspect of God’s creation. But then the sinful, unregenerate man doesn’t have much use for God. That sinful self is lodged in our soul too. It remains there until we see the other side of the grave in heaven. To get us there God gives us a message of hope and comfort and peace. “God Gave Us a Great Message.” 1) It is needed now; 2) It needs to be modeled well.
Many years ago I remember watching a TV preacher that I had never seen or heard of before. He had a most interesting style. That day he had a really good message. He had three or four points to his sermon. Each time he started each point he was like a snowball coming down a mountainside. As he built on the point he was making he got louder and quicker and more excited. In the end, he came back to the same answer…Jesus! It was a most interesting and edifying sermon.
When you read the end of the previous chapter and the beginning of this chapter, it reminds me of the day I was listening to that pastor. Paul is making a defense of his ministry and the fact that he was called to be an apostle of Jesus. He was countering some accusations directed against him as a phony and a fraud.
In chapter five the apostle chides the critics who apparently accused him of being out of his mind; that he was operating with false motives. What makes you click, Paul? (Verses 14-15) “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 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.” Paul wasn’t trying to make a name for himself. His life was all about Jesus who made a big deal about Paul’s life and everyone else who has ever lived.
All who come to know that Christ died for all are “the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” We have a new status before God. We have new purpose. We have new direction. We have new priorities. We have a new final home. All because of Jesus!
How can we be so sure? Verse 21 “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.” Sin caused the big break up from God. Because of sin there was a separation. In fact, we deserved to be condemned. We have no right to his favor and blessing. But God would not have it. He made the move. He did the work. He did the reconciling. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus, the Son of God, became flesh. He did an exchange for us that was the most unfair exchange that could ever take place, but it was to our overwhelming advantage. While he had no sin he took the blame for our sin and died for every last one of them. While we sin, he credited us with his sinlessness, “so that we might become the righteousness of God. He was ground zero for our sin, and he zeroed out our sin. God was the one who closed that line of separation between through Christ. That’s God’s great message for us. It hasn’t changed.
Let me make an application. Let me remind you there were those detractors of Paul. They were trying to convince everyone for one reason or another that Paul had impure motives. These detractors were instruments of Satan. Satan loves to monkey up stuff and get attention away from the one who really matters – Jesus. What were they trying to do? They were trying to convince everyone that the problem was Paul. What was Paul trying to do? What does God want us to do? Hey the solution is Jesus! The solution is Jesus!
That’s why this church and any church needs to be on board with why we are really hear. To argue about the color of the carpet? To argue whether we should have yellow stripes or white stripes in the parking lot? No, we are here to hear and receive the message of Jesus – Jesus lived, Jesus died, Jesus rose again - God’s great message for us.
That message has urgency. It needs to be preached now; it needs to be believed now. “As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.” As people who are working together and with the Lord himself “he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” The Bible tells us about people who had opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus but blew it. Think of Herod who interfaced with John the Baptist, or Isaiah with Ahaz, or Ahab and Jezebel with Elijah. Each fumbled away their opportunities. Imprisoned Paul was brought before Felix, the king. Paul was brought before him on trial. Acts 24 says, “As Paul talked about righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and said, “That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” Hey Felix, now is the day of salvation, not tomorrow, not next week, not next year! Who knows if you will be around then? Who knows if you will have the opportunity to hear then?
There was a déjà vu moment when the same situation occurred with the apostle Paul. Some would have said that Paul was trying to save his own neck. Not true. At the trial Paul tried to save theirs from hell. Paul simply told them about Jesus. He was the Messiah who “would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” The Bible says that “Festus interrupted Paul’s defense. “You are out of your mind, Paul!” he shouted. “Your great learning is driving you insane.” Eventually Agrippa exclaimed, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Now is the time, Festus! Now is the time, Agrippa! Sadly they are kicking themselves around hell because they blew the opportunity.
Now is the time people. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Not next year. No one is guaranteed a tomorrow. There is no time to take off. There is no time for students to set it all aside for those college years. In fact, there is no time for anyone to slack off and take a rest from the message that gives us rest. That message is needed now. It is needed by all.
It needs to be modeled well. Judy and I are getting into the sunset years of our lives and the thought of retiring is settling in. Someone asked me what I was going to do when I retire. My dad put me to work when I was in the third grade with regular chores. It has been that way ever since. My parents had a great work ethic and I believe their five sons had a wonderful example.
After I retire I hope to preach and teach now and then; fill in for pastors when they ask. But I decided I am going to form a group called the Elisha Group, not so much because he was a great prophet but because he was bald. I am going to sell hair restoration products and I am going to Steve Bohlmann and Bob Jackovatz to join the group.
I know that Judy is my last obstacle. She oversees the finances. I know that she is going to say to me that before you sell the product, you have to prove something works. I can hear her say, “Honey, you have a long way to go!”
On the serious side, remember Paul was criticized and accused to be a fake. Paul sacrificed a lot because he loved Jesus who first loved him. He let it show. He could have been a very wealthy man if he had stayed a Pharisee. He could have been part of the “in” crowd, the political elitists. He could have had a much easier life. But by the grace of God Jesus claimed him as his own. He lived a tough life because of it as a preacher and proclaimer of Jesus.
If I were to really sell some hair restoration lotion then I better have a lot of good hair on top, not ice. When our aim is to let the world know about Jesus, then it needs to be followed not with a bunch of talk but a walk with him, and that means going over some very tough terrain.
Look what Paul endured. Paul lived in Corinth for eighteen months establishing God’s church. People saw him. People heard about him. An uncommitted person would never persevere what he persevered. His sincerity and commitment was very obvious.
It sounds like Paul might have been bragging. He was not. To say anything less would have been untrue. “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger.” Paul went through these things for Jesus - loving Jesus at any and all expense?
The first radio preacher whose name was Paul Rader said he was once in the Colosseum in Rome where thousands once watched Christians torn apart by wild animals. He said, "I stood uncovered to the heavens above, where He sits for whom they gladly died, and asked myself, 'Would I, could I, die for Him tonight to get this gospel to the ends of the earth?'" Those early Christians "lived on the threshold of heaven, within a heartbeat of home, no possessions to hold them back."
Paul says that we must never be a stumbling block for others. It is not just about preaching and teaching, but living what we say we believe. If we don’t, the question can be rightly asked, “Do you really embrace what you say you do? Lots of people say that they can’t put their faith into words. If that is true, then put what you know into your actions.
How? Paul says, “In purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit, (I believe that should be translated with a holy spirit or a holy attitude), and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left.” Each of those phrases speak for themselves. The weapons of righteousness are the means by which the Holy Spirit works. The Word and sacrament are special and very central to our lives. They are the means that God strengthens us to live in a world that is hard to live.
We who have God’s great message. The problem is there are many who think it is foolish and they aren’t afraid to say so.
The following are contrasts between what we know what God has made us and what the world thinks of us. “Through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors;9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed;10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. As it applied to Paul, so it is with you and me as we ask God to give us strength to live for Christ. Some will love and honor; some will not. Some will talk you appreciate your life, others will talk you down. We may feel defeated, but we also know Christ gives us the victory. We might be poor in the eyes of the world but having Christ, we have everything.
What really matters is that we know we have a God who stays committed to us. We have the honor of being his child. How do we know? He gave us the greatest message of all. Give your all for him.