Summary: We’re on a mission from God. The motivation for our mission is the fear of the Lord and the love of Christ. The message of our mission is that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. The magnificence of our mission is that God has made us his
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone about something really important and you’ve been interrupted? Perhaps the phone has rung, or someone has come into the room with something that just can’t wait and the conversation is stopped dead in its tracks. What do you do? Well if it’s me, I try to start it up again as soon as the interruption is over. I might need to remind myself where we were, but if it’s important that’s what I’ll do.
Well today we need to restart a conversation we began at the start of the year; a conversation about what it means to be human.
You may recall, if you can remember back that far, that we began with the wonder of creation, with humanity as the pinnacle of that creation, the ones whom God has blessed with being made just a little lower than the angels. But then we saw that humanity had failed to live up to their expectations. The paradise they’d been put into was spoilt and they were expelled from God’s presence, an impregnable barrier placed between them and God.
The result was that we find ourselves in a bind. No matter how much we want to do the right thing, no matter how much we seek after God, we keep on falling short. Our best efforts are still well below the standard of perfection necessary for us to stand before God without fear.
But then we saw that God isn’t finished with us. The failure of human beings to obey God didn’t mean the failure of his plan to create a people for himself. But it did mean that he had to send his own Son to earth as a human being to live the life of obedience that Adam and Eve had failed to live. It did mean that Jesus Christ had to die in our place and rise again. But the result of that great act of love by Jesus Christ was that we’re now enabled to become his children, not just as a legal fiction, but in reality as we’re born again, as God’s own Spirit comes to live within us, to bring new life to our own spirit.
Well, that’s where we got to just before Easter. There may have been a bit more to it than just that, seeing as it took 6 weeks, but that’s the basic outline.
So here’s the situation for humanity in general. People are separated from God by a huge gulf, a gulf caused by their own rebellion, their own inability to allow God to be God in their lives. What’s more, as we saw a few weeks ago in Ephesians, we’re unable to even begin to move back to God. Why? Because we’re spiritually dead. But God does what’s needed. He makes the first move. Just as in the garden of Eden, after the fall, he came walking in the garden calling out to Adam and Eve, "Where are you?" So now he’s sent his only Son into the world to bring us home.
He’s sent his only Son, Jesus, into the world, as Paul says in our passage today, to die for all, so that all may die along with him, and then to rise again so that all might rise with him.
So what difference does that make to us as a Church? Well, let’s look at what God has to say to us via Paul’s second letter to the Church in Corinth.
1 Motivation for Mission
He begins as he so often does with his own example. What is it that he’s modelled for them and us? Look at 5:11: "Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others."
The Fear of the Lord
Now if you’ve got your bible open, just look back to v10 because that explains what he means by the fear of the Lord. (2 Cor 5:10 NRSV) "For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil." The plight of humanity is a serious thing, isn’t it? We’re walking along a precipice in the dark with a great chasm on either side. We’re in great danger unless someone comes and rescues us. So, he says, he does his best to persuade others. What’s he persuading them of? Of the danger they’re in. Of the reality of the day of judgement. Of the reality of our human condition, our fallen nature.
I know we don’t like to think about such things. We’d prefer to think that as long as we’ve lived a reasonably good life we’ll be OK. It’s so easy to stick our head in the sand about this isn’t it? Because the alternative is to realise that we, and our friends, are in diabolical trouble (and I use the term advisedly!). But the reality we all face is this: We must all "appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil." And that’s why Paul works so hard to persuade people.