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Fourth Sunday After Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Mike Moffitt, June 20, 2021

No Longer Enemies of God

Text: 2 Corinthians 5:14–21

Years ago I heard that a great uncle of mine had passed away. Even though he lived in Roanoke I seldom saw him as I grew older, but I did want to go to the funeral home to see my great aunt and his daughter, my second cousin, and to have the opportunity to pay my respects and offer words of comfort.

As I walked into the funeral parlor another great aunt, Jean, the younger sister of the deceased, saw me and looked shocked. She turned around to me and loudly declared, “Bob Moffitt, is that you? I heard that you died!” Suddenly everyone in the room, which was full of people, turned to see the man who was supposed to be dead. I assured my great aunt that my father, Bob Moffitt, had indeed passed away and I was his son, Michael.

Jean and I had not seen each other for many years, but she heard that I had gone into the ministry. Well, she seemed to want to catch up on everything right then and there and wanted to parade me around the room so that the other family members could see that I was the spitting image of my father, which I’m really not. Although Teresa and I noticed a fairly recent picture of me taken from the side and I did look like my father from the neck up. When I was small the men that my father worked with called me “little Bob” because there was no doubt that he was my father.

Several years ago Teresa and I were vacationing with our children. My son Ben, and I decided to go for a walk to talk about a few things. When we returned our daughter Amy, wanted to show us a video that she had taken of Ben and me walking away. Our stride is identical as we both are fairly tall, he several inches taller than me, but the way we walk is the same. This isn’t something that we planned, it’s just how we are wired and the fact that we share a similar DNA. However, he is blessed with a thick head of hair, which he gets from Teresa’s side of the family. The similarities between my father and son are an indication that there is a design in our creation pointing us to the creator who designed us.

I bring up these examples because the Bible teaches that humans were created in the image of God. We are image-bearers by design, it is intrinsic to our nature and can’t be separated from who we are. The scriptures teach us that sin has badly marred and defiled that image, but in Christ we are restored to the original goodness that was the characteristic of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:24 that in Christ we “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

In Colossians 3:10 he writes that believers, “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” So we see that if we are in Christ, we should reflect the image of Jesus Christ to the world.

Two weeks ago we considered what it means to experience the presence of God. We found that it wasn’t merely the fact that God is omnipresent, meaning he is in all places, all the time, and there is not one place in the universe where he is not, but we saw examples of God manifesting himself to people, meaning he showed up in a way that clearly revealed that God was before them. We asked the question, “Are we right to hope for a continual and conscious sense of God’s presence?” I concluded that, If you are a Christian, one who has come to Christ by faith and committed your life to him as Savior and Lord, then his manifest presence should be something to expect. I’m persuaded of it. I believe that God wants to make himself known to those who pursue him and long for him. Does it come with a price? Of course. It will mean that God will change you to resemble his Son, Jesus Christ and he may ask you to serve him in ways that make you uncomfortable. Do you long for that intimacy with God, do you think it worth it?

Last week we considered the difference between happiness and the joy of the Lord. We saw that happiness is fleeting because it is dependent on the circumstances we find yourselves in. However, joy is internal, and it is based upon something far more dependable. The joy that the Bible speaks of is rooted in the life and character of God himself, and in his working out the redemption of this world, and of his people through the death and resurrection of his son, Jesus Christ.

Last Wednesday in our Behold Your God series we talked about the immutability of God, the truth that he never changes because there is nothing about him that needs to change. This gives us great hope because no matter what is happening to us or around us, God’s promise to never leave us or forsake us remains true.

If God is our hope, then it doesn’t ultimately matter who is in charge within our government, because we have the assurance that Jesus Christ is King and seated in the heavenly places ruling and reigning in righteousness over all creation. Powerful men and women who act in godless ways can make our lives more difficult, they can try to stop Christians from evangelizing or teaching the word of God and what it says concerning current godless policies. But they do not have the ability to remove our joy in the Lord, our peace that passes all understanding, or our security, unless our security is in material things or things that seem vitally important to the world.

The promises of God remain intact no matter the decrees of men. Jesus Christ is as relevant today as he was over 2,000 years ago. God is ultimately our provider in every circumstance, in every moment of our lives, and we have every reason to fall upon our knees in praise to our God and King, for he and he alone never changes.

So as we turn to our passage from 2 Corinthians 5:14–21, we come with the understanding that God sent his Son, to pay the price or our sins because we are made in his image, he wants us to know him intimately and experience the profound joy that is to be found in God alone. In order for this to be realized something had to happen that only God could do. Man’s image was too badly marred, and he had shown himself to consistently chose for everything but God, even when it always ended tragically. The world seeks to provide imitations of joy but that is all they are. A cubic zirconia initially looks like a diamond but is a cheap imitation and has no real value. What God has for us in Christ can’t be replicated by anything or anyone else and it is only through Christ can we be reconciled to God.

There are two points that we want to understand from our passage:

  1. The only way to be reconciled to God is to die with Christ.
  2. Those who have done so are a new creation and should model the example of Christ in how they live and what they reveal about God through their lives.

Let’s read 2 Corinthians 5:14–15,

For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

It was because of Paul’s love and devotion to Christ that he was compelled to give his life to the proclamation of the gospel, the very same gospel that had changed him. It was Christ's love that had compelled him to give his life for sinners, and he did so that those for whom he died might no longer live for themselves but for him who died and was raised for their salvation. Paul had earlier written to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 6:19–20,

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

We often hear people speak about freedom, but what is usually meant is that they are free to do whatever they want to. English Poet William Ernest Henley in his poem Invictus wrote,

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate: 
I am the captain of my soul.

The truth of the matter is that we are made to serve, and we will either serve Christ or another master. To live for self is sin. To live for Christ is to bow down to him as Lord of our lives. I have often thought it interesting how often a small child will refuse to obey a command of their parents. When told to clean their room they look up with indignation and cry out, “NO!” My kids did that once.

I love our Old Testament reading this morning. Up until this time God had remained silent during the discussion of Job’s suffering between him and his friends. Then God decides to speak. In Job 38:1–4,

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 2“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 4“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding.”

I can’t even imagine what Job experienced during the conversation between him and God over the final five chapters of the book. Most of it was God speaking to Job and to his friends but I do know that in chapter 40:3–5 Job expresses regret that he spoke foolishly and promises to put his hand over his mouth. However, in the end, God blessed Job mightily, once Job was able to see God for who he was and his place before God. For all his previous wealth and position before men, he was completely dependent upon God for everything.

Let’s read 2 Corinthians 5:17,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Paul confidently wrote that every person who came to Christ through faith and repentance was a new creation, no longer under the curse of sin and death. The image was being restored to the place that was intended for man from the beginning. Paul was using language and imagery from Old Testament passages like Isaiah 66:22,

For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain.

The same language was used by the Apostle Peter in 2 Peter 3:13,

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Dr. Richard Pratt in his commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians writes,

New creation describes those who follow Christ because they have begun the transformation that will eventually lead to their full enjoyment of salvation in the new heavens and new earth. Christ’s death and resurrection introduced a foretaste of that new world to come.
(Richard L. Pratt Jr. Holman New Testament Commentary- 1-2 Corinthians, Holman Reference, Nashville, 2000 p.357)

Paul was a living example of what it meant to be a new creation in Christ because that is exactly what had happened to him. Because of his relationship with Jesus Christ he looked at people differently. He went from being a dangerous persecutor of Christians to someone who was being persecuted for being a follower of Christ. His primary ministry as an apostle was to bring the gospel message to the Gentile nations. In his former life as a Pharisee he would have considered them pagans and not those for whom he would labor and sacrifice. His view of the new believers in Christ was that they were new creations and those who were not as those who needed Jesus.

The change in his perception mirrored the heart of Jesus Christ and compelled Paul to do whatever was needed that those without Christ might be transformed into new creations. Paul had been a passionate Jewish Pharisee and zealous for the law of God, but after encountering the manifest presence of the Son of God, his passion was transferred to the proclamation of the Lordship of the very one that the law and prophets had pointed to. To really encounter Jesus as Savior and Lord means that there can never be a neutral response to him.

Many of the members of the church at Corinth were still living by the values of the world, as they assumed that claiming to believe that Jesus was Lord and the way to salvation didn’t necessarily call for them to change their behavior and live their lives for the glory of God. Paul points out that they are holding on to the old way of living and thinking. Critics of Paul pointed out that he was living in such a way that would indicate that he wasn’t successful according to the standards of the world. Paul is pointing them to a new standard where those who are in Christ are to live for the glory of God and as servants to those around them.

I’m afraid that is still a misunderstanding within Christianity today. It is very common to see those who are supposedly leaders within their churches living as kings and in order to justify this lifestyle encourage others to expect great financial blessings when they come to Christ. The same mentality was very present in the Corinthian church and Paul wanted to point out that what God was offering them as new creations in the kingdom of God was life with God both now, which may be difficult, but life in the age to come. Jesus taught his disciples to not “lay up for yourselves treasure on earth…but lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven…” In order for this to happen Paul knew there needed to be a change in their way of thinking.

2 Corinthians 5:18–19,

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Paul explained the change within his own life and way of thinking in terms of reconciliation and that even this had come from God. Reconciliation is the establishment of peace and harmony between those who had once been enemies and at odds with one another. Where there was once hostility there is now mutual love. In his writings to the churches Paul often shared the story of his opposition to the ways of God and his persecution of the followers of Jesus. Now he writes that it was God who established peace between himself and Paul, through Christ. This act of divine love and grace is what transformed the apostle.

In so doing, God raised up Paul and then raised up those who responded to his message to have a ministry of reconciliation. It would be a ministry that changed how Paul viewed people and would be a ministry devoted to making peace between God and humanity through the preaching of the gospel.

Remember that we saw a few weeks ago the example of God coming to men and manifesting his presence to them in a tangible way. In each case we saw that it wasn’t based on their righteousness and understanding of God. Quite the contrary, God inserted himself into their lives in order that they might know him and join him in accomplishing his sovereign will.

We see the same thing with the Apostle Paul. Jesus did not come to Saul, later to be called Paul, because of his righteousness or because he was seeking to know Jesus. On the contrary, he was seeking to destroy the followers of Christ and had a hatred of Christianity. God had a mission for Paul and transformed his life through Jesus Christ and sent him to be the messenger to those who by in large had not been seeking God or showed a real interest in knowing Jesus Christ. The fact is that the majority of those in the Gentile world who Paul initially went to had never heard of Jesus Christ, much less the resurrection.

God, the reconciler, was sending Paul to preach the gospel message that God was reconciling the world to himself, in spite of their evil and idol worship. God was willing to offer peace with those who by nature lived in opposition to him. Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:3–5,

among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

As a Pharisee Paul’s vision for what was important was that the law of God be honored and obeyed.

The Pharisees were the most numerous and influential of the religious sects of Jesus' day. They were strict legalists. They stood for the rigid observance of the letter and forms of the Law, and also for the Traditions. There were some good men among them, no doubt, but for the most part they were known for their covetousness, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy.

God uprooted Paul from this life of respectability and comfort in ancient Israel, but instead gave him a vitally important role in the kingdom of God. Paul writes,

Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

In Paul’s day the term ambassador was much the same as its usage today. An ambassador represented a nation or kingdom to other nations. An ambassador was an honored position because they represented the authority of kings on whose behalf they spoke. God was making an appeal for peace to those who had rejected his authority and dominance as God and King of all and had chosen to do that through his ambassadors. The message of reconciliation is a startling one and we see that in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The Creator God, who rules and reigns in power, glory, majesty, and strength. who is far more wonderful and amazing than we can even begin to imagine was willing to lay down his life in payment for the sins of those who he had created. It wasn’t a matter of mankind making a few mistakes or lapses in judgment, it was a case of the created defying, blaspheming, betraying, ignoring, and (we all know I could go on with a longer list of sins) the very ones that God had lavished upon them with his love and affection. Who had forgiven them times without number, even after they arrogantly turned away from his entreaties? He came to pay the penalty of their sins. Paul wasn’t expecting that when he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, but once he understood there was only one thing he could do. He gave up his life and everything that it entailed to be the ambassador of such an amazing and loving King. He even died the death of a martyr and was honored to do so.

Initially, I thought I would focus on our gospel reading today from Mark 4:35–5:20. I’ve been thinking about all the ways that Jesus manifested his power and authority and how much that seemed to make the crowds want to hear his teaching. In today’s reading he spoke to a storm, and it obeyed his command and the demonic spirit in the man of the Gerasenes recognized Jesus and submitted to his authority. Even his teaching had power had authority but coupled with his authority over sickness, disabilities, the demonic, and even over death he demanded attention, even among those who resisted him. The combination of the Holy Spirit and the authority of the name of Jesus enabled the disciples and all those who followed Jesus after his ascension to be able to do the same miraculous works that Jesus did and that was true of Paul. Paul was able to heal the sick, cast out the demonic, and even raise the dead. Of course, for me, the obvious question if we are honest is why we don’t see that. We certainly don’t have any shortage of those who are ill or injured and I think there are more people possessed by demons than we know. I’ve been asking God about that and I believe that it has something to do with not being willing to place ourselves in situations where we have no other options than to depend on God.

Next week I’ll be sharing with you a dream I had on Thursday night and how I believe it speaks to the reason we are not moving in power and experiencing the manifest presence of God in our midst. Stay tuned.

Let’s pray.

©2021 Rev. Mike Moffitt

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