Scripture Text: 2 Corinthians 5:14–21
In 1978, an English rock band called The Who released a song called Who Are You. That song was supposedly influenced by an incident a band member once had with a policeman. The song, Who Are You, was later used as the title track for the television series, CSI, a show where the characters tried to discover the identity of crime victims and those who killed them. It made me think, do we know who we are? I am not talking about what our birth certificate says, or who we are according to our ancestry. I am talking about our spiritual identities. I think we sometimes forget who we are, slipping into a type of spiritual amnesia and falling back into who we once were. Our view of who we are may not match who we should be. Recently, some of us participated in a survey to help us discover who we are as a church. It is good to occasionally assess ourselves as we may not have a clear picture of who we really are. But, what does the Bible say about us? How does scripture identify the church? This passage from Paul’s second letter to Corinth reminds us who we are and what we should be doing.
We Are A People Motivated By Love
In Revelation chapter two, we read about the church in Ephesus. This church was doing a lot of things right, but they had done one huge thing wrong. They had left their first love. Perhaps this was their love for Christ, or their love for one another, or maybe it was both. One thing a church must have is love. No matter what we do, how well we do it, or how well things are going, if we do not have love, it does not matter. The love for God and love for each other must permeate everything we are and do. In fact, those are the greatest commandments. When someone, especially someone in the church, hurts us, it is important that we respond in love. Therefore, I find it interesting that Paul mentioned in this passage about love controlling him. Look at the following verses.
2 Corinthians 5:14–15 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and 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
What drove Paul to dedicate himself to God and God’s church? It was the love of Christ. The love of Christ controlled him. But, did Paul mean that his love for Jesus compelled Him to follow Christ and represent Christ to the world? Or, did Paul mean that Jesus’ love for him, controlled him? Certainly, God loved us so much that He gave His Son to save us from our sin (John 3:16). That love should motivate us to serve God with a whole heart. It is also true that our own love for Jesus should compel us to follow Him faithfully. While Jesus’ love came first in giving His life for us, we respond to His love with our own love for Him and for others. Since Paul was primarily speaking about what Christ had done for him, Jesus dying for all, Paul probably meant the love that Christ has for us. Jesus’ love for Paul motivated him to pour out his life for others.
I think we sometimes forget just how much God has loved us and how that love should radically change us and compel us to share His love. Jesus’ love for us is what should control us as it did Paul. One might say that Jesus’ love “leaves us no choice”. Jesus died for us so that we would no longer live for ourselves, but for Him. When one confesses Jesus as Lord and the Holy Spirit begins to transform that person, there is a major reorientation in that person’s life. His love will change the way we live here and now on earth, not simply insure our eternal life with Him in heaven. Jesus’ sacrificial love for us should restrain us from self-seeking, and move us to be a people who are focused on Him. If we are the people of God who have be radically changed by the love of Christ, we will live and love for Jesus. His love for us will move us to view the world and each other as He sees it — in need of Him. Does Jesus’ love for you control you in that way? Does it motivate you to share His love with others?
We Are A People With a New Identity
How do you see yourself? How do you see other people? Do you see yourself and others primarily by family ancestry, titles, occupation, wealth, or accomplishments? Those are common ways to view people. Do you see yourself as someone who has been saved by Christ and is now in fellowship with God? Do you see others as people who either know Jesus or do not know Jesus? Paul mentioned in this passage that he saw people differently than he used to see them. Something happened in his life that changed his perspective of others. Look at the following verses.
2 Corinthians 5:16–17 16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
Paul mentioned that he no longer saw people according to the flesh, meaning he no longer viewed people from a worldly point of view. A way to view others by a worldly standard is to use human comparisons to judge others, like occupation, wealth, or accomplishments. We do this by comparing people by our own standard of excellence, meaning they must measure up to what we think is good. But, the measure we ought to use is what God has said. For instance, God’s verdict on sin condemns us all. Not one person is exempt from God’s judgment on sin. That should destroy any illusion we have of being superior to other people. Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, black and white, rich and poor are all on the same level before God – sinners in the hands of an angry God. Another way to judge according to the flesh, would be by using God’s law instead of God’s grace, meaning we compare people to how well they keep the whole law of God. That is legalism. Therefore, the way Paul chose to see people was according to their standing with Christ. Were they in Christ or not? Were they alive in Christ and destined for heaven or were they dead in sin and destined for hell?
Being in Christ is about being new. People are attracted to new things like new cars, new homes, new babies, and new gadgets. This passage states that those who are in Christ, meaning those who believe in Jesus and confess Him as Lord, are a “new creation”. You might not look like a new person, having the same old body with which you were born, but you are a new person in Christ. The old person who was shackled by sin and death has passed away, and a new person freed by the blood of Christ has been born. We are recreated by the love and grace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit. To become this new creation, one must choose to be in Christ. You must believe that you are a sinner and in need of a Savior. You must trust Jesus as your Savior and confess Him as your Lord. If you are in Christ, then you are a new person with a new identity. Are you in Christ or are you still in the world, clinging to some other form of identification for yourself? It is an important distinction, because who we see ourselves will determine what we think is important and it will influence what we do. Who are you?
We Are A People On A Mission
Being in Christ should bring about a radical change in a person’s life. If we are new, it should show. With our new identity also comes a new purpose, a new mission. What is that mission? For years, we have used the following as our church mission statement:
At Good Hope Baptist, we are Sharing the good news about Jesus, creating a Loving place, where His people are Discerning the work He has called them to do, and where His people are Equipping one another to do His work.
If you think about it, we have focused on each aspect of that mission statement. Lately, we have talked a great deal about creating a loving place, reaching out and caring for one another. We have also discussed discerning God’s will, particularly His will for the future of the church. We equip one another through prayer, Bible study and teaching, and regular fellowship. What about the first part of that mission statement, though? How well are we sharing the good news about Jesus? How are we impacting the community around us? I recently read a description of a church as a gated community, where the people in the community pretty much keep to themselves and keep others out. Are we a gated community that keeps to ourselves and keeps others out? The great mission of the church is to make disciples of all nations, and that begins with telling others about Jesus Christ. That involves us getting outside of the walls that surround us.
And the church’s mission is great! There are about 28,000 people who live within a five mile radius of the church facilities. That number is expected to grow to over 31,000 in the next five years. Only about 14% of the current population considers their faith as really important, and only about 18% think it is important enough to attend worship services. Those numbers seem daunting with such a small congregation. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37). We need the laborers to fulfill the mission God has given us. We are a people with a new identity in Christ, a new purpose and a new mission. That mission is a ministry of reconciliation, and it is based on God’s ministry to us. Look at the following verses.
2 Corinthians 5:18–19 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
God’s mission is to reconcile people to Himself. We have all been separated from God, under His wrath, and destined for a devil’s hell. We have all earned the wages of sin, which is death (Romans 6:23). But through Jesus Christ, we are brought into fellowship with God. Through Jesus, our relationship with God is restored. Those who believe in Jesus and confess Him as Lord are forgiven of their sin and are reconciled to God. However, with this new relationship comes a new mission. God’s mission of reconciling the world becomes our mission. We are given His ministry of reconciliation, meaning, we are called to share what Christ has done for us with others. Look at the following.
2 Corinthians 5:20-21 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 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.
We are called to be Ambassadors for Jesus, to represent Jesus to the world. The basis of our ministry to the world is our own reconciliation to God through Christ. We offer reconciliation to others because we have been reconciled to God. God’s act of reconciling the world continues through the church who has the privilege and the responsibility of proclaiming God’s message to the world. God sends us as His official representatives, to announce His “peace treaty” with mankind. We do not act on our own authority but under the commission of the authority who sends us. The message of reconciliation is made available to others when God’s ambassadors, the church, spread the message to them. Since Jesus no longer walks on earth in the flesh, His people, the church, speak and act on His behalf. We are the hands, feet and mouth of Jesus. We are the ones representing Jesus to the world. That is who we are, ambassadors for Christ. How well are you representing Jesus?
Who Are We?
In closing, are you reconciled to God or are you still living in rebellion to Him? Are you in Christ or not? Have you accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior? If so, you are a new creation and you have a new identity. You are now in fellowship with God. And, if you are reconciled to God, you are also an ambassador for Christ. You are God’s representative bringing a message of real peace to others. That mission means we must always point others to Christ and to what God has done through Christ, not what we are doing for Christ. We must always focus on Jesus! As a church, how are we reaching the harvest for Jesus? Could we do anything to better represent Jesus to the world? Is God offering us an opportunity to become better ambassadors for Christ? The world needs a Savior and they need His ambassadors to share the message of reconciliation with them. Are we doing that? May it be so! Thanks be to God. Amen!
This sermon was delivered at Good Hope Baptist Church in Wake Forest, NC. More information about Good Hope may be found at the following site: www.GoodHopeBC.org.