We are working through a sermon series right now on the Mission of God. The over-arching idea is this: God is active and at work in the world, and all of his actions are directed toward one end. He has one purpose. God has one mission. And it is this:
The mission of God is…
to reconcile the world to himself,
restore the world to His original design,
and enjoy it, with us, forever.
We’ve actually already preached through these three pieces of God’s mission: reconciliation, restoration, and enjoyment. But we are going through them again – this week, next week, and the week after. This time, as we go through them, we are going to be focusing very intentionally on our part – my part, your part. What does it look like to participate in what God is doing?
Before we read today’s scripture passage, let me remind you that you DO have a part in God’s mission, you are called to participate, to join Him. Salvation always includes vocation. Part of what happens when God saves you, is that he gives you a new purpose. Your life is no longer about living for yourself, but about living for God. Your purpose is doing his will. Your purpose is doing his work. Wherever you find yourself and whatever your circumstances are.
God saved Noah, in order that Noah might be the beginning a relatively fresh start for humanity.
God chose and then blessed Abraham and Abraham’s family, in order that all the families of the world might be blessed through him.
God rescued baby Moses, in order that one day Moses would lead God’s people out of Egypt.
This IS the pattern. When God saved you, you not only got forgiveness from your guilt, and healing from your shame, and freedom from the bondage of death, and victory over the devil, and a sense of belonging where there was once loneliness. You ALSO got a purpose. You got a call to join God’s mission, somehow, in someway. Salvation always includes vocation.
Listen now to today’s scripture passage. 2 Corinthians 5: 11 – 21
To recap, God’s mission is to reconcile the world to himself. Reconciliation is when a broken relationship is healed or repaired. God created humanity to be in relationship with him. But when humanity sinned, choosing pride and self-centredness, that relationship broke. Since the very beginning, God has always made provision for the healing of his relationship with his people: he set up priests, a system of sacrifices. But then when the time was right, he Himself came in a new way, in the person of Jesus. The ultimate priest. The ultimate sacrifice. The sins of humanity was paid once and for all. The righteousness that we were originally created to have was given to us freely as a gift. And the result was reconciliation. There is peace between you and God. There is connection between you and God. Each party is doing what they are meant to: We give him worship and obedience and love. He gives us power and purpose and provision and care and attention. There is mutual delight. And all of this through Jesus: Verse 21 of today’s scripture reading: “God made him – that is Jesus – who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
And as ones who have received reconciliation, we are now instruments of reconciliation. Salvation includes a new vocation. Did you catch it in passage? TWICE there was this salvation/vocation pairing. Verse 18: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ AND GAVE US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION.” Then again in verse 19: “that 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.” We aren’t just recipients of God’s mission of reconciliation, we are now participants in that mission – we join him in his work.
This morning’s big question: what does that look like? What does it look like? I mean for realz, Pastor Brittney, what does it look like… for me?
Let’s chat, shall we? Let’s throw a round a few ideas, and try to get practical.
First, evangelism. Joining God’s mission to reconcile the world back to himself means that you, somehow, will be engaged in the work of evangelism. Verse 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.” Praise God, we are enjoying a good relationship with God. But many, many, many are missing out. As instruments of reconciliation, or as Christ’s ambassadors, it is our job to share the great, great news that God has made a way for reconciliation, and to encourage people to take hold of it, and be reconciled to God through Christ.
Evangelism tip #1: Get in touch with the beauty of your own personal reconciliation with God. You aren’t going to share the good news that reconciliation with God is possible if you yourself are jazzed by it. So, just notice that about yourself: do you have a sense of what you’ve been saved from? Do you have a sense of what your life would be without the gospel? And are you in awe of what you’ve been given… and are you enjoying it? Before getting started in evangelism, this is important pre-work that ought to be done, attending to your own heart and your own relationship with God. That’s sort of the well out of which you operate, or the pot from which you draw on.
Evangelism tip #2: Pray very specifically for 3 people in your life that don’t know reconciliation with God yet. Pray for those 3 people regularly. Maybe that’s everyday. Maybe that’s just once a week, maybe it’s even less. But commit to it being regular, and commit to the same three people. Why? Well, God answers prayer. And it is highly likely that he will use your prayers to be the means with which he works in someones heart and life. The other thing about praying is it will keep you motivated, awake, and aware to what is going on with these people. If you are praying for someone, you are definitely going to be invested in their lives. The Apostle Paul says in the passage that he doesn’t view anyone from a worldly point of view. He means we aren’t just flesh and blood. He means everyone is an eternal being. That neighbour is an eternal being. That colleague is an eternal being. Praying for people will keep that perspective fresh in your heart and mind.
Evangelism tip #3: Follow this simple three step process: Look for spiritual thirst > Obey the nudge of the Holy Spirit > Discern with them their next step. Wait until you see spiritual thirst. You are prayerfully waiting for that. And then take notice of spiritual thirst when you see it! Spiritual thirst can be all sorts of things: what are people thirsty for? Maybe they are trying to find the power to forgive someone, maybe they are looking to have guilt or shame removed, maybe they are in need of some sort of healing (physical or emotional), maybe they are confused about the meaning of life, maybe they are struggling with their own personal purpose, maybe they are searching for a true place to belong. Look for the spiritual thirst and notice it when you see it. Then, obey the Holy Spirit when he nudges you to address it. When the circumstances allow and the Holy Spirit puts it on your mind, send them an email, stop them in the parking lot after work. Hey, I’ve been thinking about you, I’ve been noticing this. How are you doing? Then, discern with them their next step. If they are thirsty the Holy Spirit’s at work. Pitch your idea, or pitch a few ideas, and discuss together what their next step might be. Hey, you’ve been wrestling with some big questions. Are you interested in reading this book? I’d love to loan it to you. Hey, you seem to be in a lot of emotional pain after that break-up, my church has this lovely prayer group – can I pass them your name? Hey, you’ve been really searching for a stable place to belong, why do you come with me to youth group?
Being reconciled back to God is a process. Your job is to be prayerful, watchful, and willing to help people take that next step toward reconciliation with the Lord.
So, joining God’s mission to reconcile the world back to himself involves evangelism. And it involves something else too. It involves working toward reconciled relationships, especially here at church.
This is not in the passage we read today. But it is else in the New Testament and the topic of Joining God’s mission of reconciliation would have a huge, gaping hole in it if this was not talked about too. When God reconciled you to himself, he brought you into his family. And that family is characterized by reconciliation. Guess what? Back then? Jews and Gentiles didn’t associate. But in Christ, brought together into reconciliation with God? They did. Men and women? Didn’t associate much. People who worked as slaves and people who worked as free people? Didn’t associate much. But in Christ they did. The church of God is the Church of a Reconciling God. That means that we not only bring in others to be reconciled to God, but that our relationships with each other reflect that spirit of reconciliation. Galatians says, There is no Jew or Gentile or slave or free. Ephesians says, make every effort to be unified, to have bonds of peace, to be reconciled to each other. Because the family of God, within which the reconciling God dwells, cannot stand for anything less than reflecting reconciled relationships.
Okay, so you know that experience where you have a bit of a struggle with someone and you are walking down the street and you see them but they don’t see you yet, and so you quickly look the other way and avoid contact? Or do you know that experience of being a little upset with someone and your phone rings and the name pops up on caller ID and you don’t pick up the phone and you are relieved when they don’t leave a voicemail? Or do you know that experience where someone at church says something sort of off-putting to you or something that hurts you and you just sort of stop talking to them and you are happy that you sit on opposite sides of the sanctuary? Do you have a grudge? Do you have unresolved anger towards someone? Is there someone you have written off? Or cut off? Or cut out? Is there someone that you are ignoring or avoiding or faking it with? If your answer is yes to any of those questions, I need to tell you something very important. That is sinful, and has no place in the family of the Reconciling God.
Reconciled relationships at church tip #1: Notice broken relationships. Notice where you are not embodying reconciliation in your relationships in the church community. We become so accustomed to low-levels of unresolved anger. We become so accustomed to being hurt or offended by someone and then harbouring unforgiveness. Our consciences aren’t tweaked or bothered anymore. Pray to be convicted. Pray for God to expose any sort of spirit or attitude in you that are contrary to his heart of reconciliation.
Reconciled relationships at church tip #2: Own your mistakes. By that I mean, take the call to confession seriously. God has given us very clear and very simple instructions on how to work through conflict, and strife, and hurt. One of those instructions is to confess how you sin against each other. Commit to being a person who can own their mistakes. Commit to being a person who will apologize.
Reconciled relationships at church tip #3: Clean up your mess. When you apologize, don’t sweep it under a rug, but truly clean up your mess. Here’s a process that Dave and I work through. Acknowledge the mistake you made. Then acknowledge the impact. Say to someone, I’ve made a mistake here, please tell me how that has impacted you. Sometimes we are so quick to apologize and ask people to forgive us that we aren’t giving the hurt we’ve caused the proper acknowledgement. Tell me how my mistake has impacted you. Then sincerely apologize. Then make some sort of commitment to behave differently.
Reconciled relationships at church tip #4: Prioritize the call to forgive people who have hurt you. Consider the call to forgive people essential and urgent. Be uncomfortable, be deeply uncomfortable with the presence of unforgiveness inside. Not only just because God says it shouldn’t be there, but because it is a toxin that can take root and wreak subtle but powerful havoc in your life. So how do you forgive? Acknowledge the injustice done toward you. Acknowledge the impact that that has had on you. And then, with people praying for you and with you, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus Christ, forgive the person you did you wrong, releasing them, their fate, your anger to God. We cannot imagine the depth of God’s commitment to forgive his people and be reconciled to them. That’s why Jesus teaches his followers that they ought to be committed to forgiving people an infinite number of times. Because nothing less is a proper reflection of the God who lives in you.
Brothers and sisters, we know and serve a God who is on a mission, a mission to reconcile the world to himself. And as people saved by him, we now join our God in this work of reconciliation in our world.
We are going to pray now. And we are going to pray very specifically for empowerment. If we are going to be ambassadors of reconciliation and do the work of evangelism and maintaining reconciled relationships here in the church family, we need the Holy Spirit’s help. So let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank you for bringing us into right, reconciled relationship with you through Jesus Christ. Thank you that your efforts at reconciliation span the globe, thank you that they span time, thank you that you will be on this mission of reconciliation until each and every one of your people are home again with you and settled in your family where they belong.
I want to pray now for missionaries and church planters, working in places far away or even right here in Canada and in our city, in many ways, Lord, they are on the front-lines of this work. Protect them, strengthen them, provide for them, and make their at efforts are inviting people to be reconciled with you successful.
Lord, as we pray for them, we pray now for ourselves. Each one of your children has the call to join you in your mission, so we put ourselves before you, and look to you for your help. Lord Jesus, you promised your followers that you would give them your Spirit to accomplish your work in your world. And we pray that the Holy Spirit would come upon each and every one of us afresh now. We receive him, and the gifts and power he gives. Empower us for this work of reconciliation. Empower us for evangelism. Empower us to embody reconciliation in our community, Lord. That people might not only know, but experience who you are and what you do.
Father, where we doubt you, your mission, or our ability to join you, fill us with faith that you are at work and you will use us.
Where we fear what this requires of us, fill us with hope and peace and confidence in your strength and promises.
And where some are tired or weary, fill us with the joy of walking with you and working with you to accomplish your plans and purposes.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit we ask all this. Amen.