Summary: There is no one who ... can stand before God justified and clean because without the blood of Jesus that washes away our sin our righteousness is nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). (A sermon for Ash Wednesday).
CALLED TO RECONCILIATION
AND TO RECONCILE
Text: Second Corinthians 5:20 - 6:10
William Cowper, the poet, found peace with God through the words, "Jesus Christ, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins" (Rom. 3:25). He saw therein the satisfaction given to God by Christ, and the forgiveness of His sins through faith in the shed blood. Soon after this he wrote the lines- "Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood, Shall never lose its power; Till all the ransomed Church of God, Be saved to sin no more." (John Ritchie. 500 Gospel Sermon Illustrations. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1987, p. 30).
Jesus, God’s only begotten Son (John 3:16) who was without sin became a sin offering for us: "The lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). He took our sinfulness to the cross as He was crucified and in exchange, He gave us His righteousness, for all who will receive it (Second Corinthians 5:21) which enables us to become God’s adopted sons and daughters (John 1:12-13).
"I do not need to be converted: I never did any harm. Some are like the prodigal son, I am like his brother." The speaker was an elder in the church. He had a high opinion of himself, and his virtues. But the prodigal’s brother in Luke 15:25-33, is a poor pattern. He boasts of his own righteousness, blames his father, speaks evil of his brother, and the last we see of him is outside sulking in disobedience to his father’s call (Romans 10:3). (John Ritchie. 500 Gospel Sermon Illustrations. Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1987, p. 116). There is no one who is righteous by his or her own merit wherein he or she can stand before God justified and clean because without the blood of Jesus that washes away our sin our righteousness is nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). The RSV words that same verse this way: "we have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment".
WE ARE CALLED TO BE AMABSSADORS OF RECONCILIATION
An ambassador is a representative who holds citizenship in one country and represents the interests of his or her country in a foreign country. We cannot watch the news with the current events going on---the threat of war in Iraq, protestors without seeing something about the ambassadors who represent their countries on the meeting floor of the United Nations to discuss the pros and cons of going to war. They are political ambassadors. We who are Christians are foreigners in a foreign land in that we are citizens of the kingdom of God who live on earth. We represent our Lord and His interests because we live in the world but we are not of the world. We are Christ’s ambassadors.
As Christ’s ambassadors, we are called to reconcile those who are estranged from God and each other. For one reason or another there are people who are estranged from God. They feel as though God has abandoned them or let them down. Perhaps, at one time they even had a daily dialogue with God in prayer. Yet, for some reason or another they feel as though God has let them down. Or, maybe they no longer feel that they are good enough for God.
"Voltaire once stood watching a funeral procession. As a high crucifix, carried by four men, passed by, Voltaire was seen to raise his hat and hold it aloft in the air until the crucifix had passed. A friend of his noticing this, said, "Well are you at last a believer in God?" "No," replied the atheist. "We salute, but we do not speak". (Hyman J. Appleman. Pointed Sermon Outlines And Illustrations. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1953,p. 82). How many are there like Voltaire who salute God, but do not speak to Him?
As Christ’s ambassadors, all we can do is live out what we believe about God’s forgiveness and reconciliation through Jesus Christ His only begotten Son. As an old saying says, "You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink". As Christ’s ambassadors, all we can do is try to help those who are estranged from God to find their way back. "There was a man who had lost his way. He asked his preacher to pray for him. At one time he had been a church leader. He had befriended alcohol only to find that he had become a slave to its vice. When he asked the preacher to pray with him he was sobbing as he said, “I know I’m in the gutter. I know it. But Oh! … I don’t belong there, do I?” Tell me I don’t belong there …” The preacher put his arm around him and said, “No, you don’t belong there; you belong to God. At the last heaven is your home!” (W. E. Sangster. Can I Know God?. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1960, pp. 60-61). As Christ’s ambassadors, we try to help those who are estranged from God out of the gutter.