Epiphany 3 -Christ calls workers to seek the lost

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Watch the service

Read the sermon

Arrive At Reconciliation

How do you arrive at reconciliation? In Europe there are many places with two names. Each of those names is in a different language. And the reason why the city has two different languages is that two groups of peoples have fought battles in that city and over that city for possession of it. And the battles went on for so long that each side had forgotten what was the first cause of the conflict to begin with. And sadly, when there is that much separation and division among people, it’s hard to bring the two groups together. It’s hard to reconcile them. Each side does not change because each side cannot change. That is our condition spiritually. God is perfect. God cannot tolerate sin. As we come into this world we love sin and are unable to not sin. How can there be reconciliation? Who can bridge the gap. In God’s word we hear the answer. In 2 Cor 5, we read: 14 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. 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. 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.” (2 Cor. 5:14–19 NIV11-GKE)

We were enemies with God. But look what happened. God reconciled him to himself. Our Father in heaven made sure that our sins would not count against us. And he did this in a very amazing way. He made our sins count against his Son, Jesus. And the word that Paul uses here is a very specific word. It’s the word for sin that pictures our sins as rebellions.1 Each of us knows what our hearts and lives are like. Each of us has had selfish and stubborn attitudes and actions. There are all those times we can look back in our lives and hear the voice of our Savior inviting us to think and do what is good and right. And we said, “no.” The picture here in this word is of God drawing a line in the sand and saying, “don’t cross this; it’ll hurt you.” And in selfish, stubborn pride, we cross the line anyway.

How do you bridge the gap between a God who only wants good for us and a people who only want to rebel against him? The answer is found here in Jesus. God counted our sins against him. Jesus reconciled us to his Father. And now we are at perfect and complete peace and harmony with him. But my dear friends in Christ, Paul writes more: 19 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” (2 Cor. 5:19–20 NIV11-GKE)

This reconciliation is not just a fact that we arrive at. It’s also a fact we can share. One of the most beautiful ways of sharing our faith and hope is to be open and honest. Now, we don’t have to over-share. But there is the disarming beauty in being able to say to our friends and family who do not know who Jesus is that Jesus has reconciled us to God. Each of us can say that there have been times in my life when I have just simply rebelled against what was good and right. God told me what was good for me. And simply because he was the one who told me, I disobeyed him. But God has reconciled me. God has counted my rebellions against Jesus instead of me. So now my sins are forgiven. Each of us, me as a pastor on behalf of the church, and you as an individual in your own private lives gets to be an ambassador, inviting, urging people to repent, recognize, and rejoice. For they have arrived at reconciliation with their God above. And all of that happened through Jesus. But my dear friends in Christ. There’s more to consider. In our last verse, Paul writes: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21 NIV11-GKE)

We have arrived at reconciliation. Jesus forgives our rebellions. But here, notice what we read. We arrive at reconciliation because Jesus gives us his own righteousness. We make our children memorize this bible passage in catechism class because there is so much truth, forgiveness, and hope in these words. These words show us that there’s some math involved in getting into heaven. In order for each person to get into heaven, that person needs to have their rebellions subtracted from them. For God cannot stand sin in his presence. And we just talked about that. That’s what Jesus did. Through his faithful life and full and complete death, God counted our rebellions against him. And now our sins are forgiven. And the pastor usually gets to this part of the sermon about 20 minutes into the sermon. So all there’s left to do is say, “amen” and sing the “create in me.”

But, my friends in Christ, notice that there’s more. In order to get into heaven sin needs to be subtracted from you, but also righteousness needs to be given to you. Righteousness is perfectness and holiness. Right here and now we have the promise that when God the Father looks at us, he does not see our rebellions. Instead he sees Jesus’ righteousness. So our sins are forgiven here and we are at peace now. But my dear friends in Christ, what about hereafter? What about after we die? One of the most amazing truths we have to consider is that we don’t just have the promise of Jesus’ righteousness now. We also have full possession of that righteousness in heaven.

And what does that mean? I remember when I was a child. I remembered that I really liked to make people laugh. So I made fun of myself. And I made fun of others. Even worse, I got into the habit of making fun of others. And I learned a powerful lesson: If you hurt others with your words, don’t be surprised if they do the same to you. And I remember having this one thought: I may be in the habit of hurting people with my words even when I don’t mean to. But at least, when I grow up, I won’t have to worry about this. I’ll be in control of what I say. Oh, how foolish I was. You all know what life is like. We spend our days making sure that the sinful, stubborn, selfish thoughts in here don’t leak out from our mouths. And we’re going to have this challenge all the days of our lives.

How amazing and wonderful it is to think that in heaven it’s going to be different. In heaven Christ’s righteousness will be our full possession. How amazing it will be to not have to censor what we say before we say it. How amazing it will be to know that whatever we say, it will build others up.

And my dear friends in Christ, this isn’t just good news for us. This is good news for those on the outside of the church. Do you think that we are the only ones who hurt others with our words? Do you think we are the only ones who have damaged, if not even destroyed people with our words? What an amazing gift it is to be able to share this with those out there too—to be able to say to them, “can you imagine a place where you don’t have to worry about what you say, because all your thoughts and all your words will be righteous and holy?’”

So, there is math involved in getting into heaven. We need to have our rebellions subtracted from us. And we need to have Christ’s righteousness given to us. And that is what we have. And that is also what we can share. So don’t be afraid to share that. let people know that they have arrived at reconciliation with God. Jesus forgives our rebellions. Jesus gives his own righteousness. Amen.

1 “ⲡⲁⲣⲁⲡⲧⲱⲙⲁⲧⲁ” (2 Cor. 5:19 GNT-VAT)

Pastor at Immanuel, Steve Bauer

Immanuel Service information

Worship Service:
     9:00 a.m.
Sunday School and Bible Class:
 Follows the service

Recent services

Stand alone day

Stand alone day

Alleluia. A cloud covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Alleluia.

You are…so be

You are…so be

Alleluia. Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Alleluia.

Trust in God’s Strength

Trust in God’s Strength

Alleluia. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Alleluia.