2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (NIV) 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 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. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Today I want to ask you a series of questions to help us lay the foundation for a theology of peacemaking that is a great part of our assignment as Christ-followers.
What compels you?
What compels you? Isn’t that a good question? When was the last time you evaluated your internal motivations? Another way to ask that question is, “What motivates you?” What is it that drives you? Are you motivated by competition, by one-upping someone else? Is it important to you to feel as if you are passing others and winning in some kind of status race? Are you driven by comparison? Do you take your cues from culture when it comes to your personal pursuits? Are you “Keeping up with the Kardashians?” When you see something that someone else has or has achieved are you compelled to acquire the same?
Are you motivated by applause? Is it the need to be recognized that gives you a motive to work hard? Is it the desire to be noticed or thanked for a job well done that motivates you to keep on keeping on? What is compelling you? Are you “working for the weekend” as the song says? Do the appetites of your flesh drive your agenda and plans? Do you have a lust for more and more of whatever more is, and is that what keeps your mind occupied and your heart hungry? Do you keep pursuing more of IT in hopes that someday IT will satisfy and finally be enough? Is it a drive for money, sex or the pursuit of some kind of adventure that keeps you motivated?
Why DO you do what you do? What is your reason for getting up every day? It’s a great question to ask ourselves because it has implications for every aspect of our lives.
Paul said in verse 14 of our text that he was motivated by the love of Christ. What does that even mean? To be motivated by the love of Christ? I suppose to be motivated by the love of Christ you first have to experience it, right? Paul certainly experienced the love of Christ. Paul had been a persecutor of the church. He had been more than at odds with those who had turned to follow Christ. He had been a murderer of those who had converted to Christianity. And even though he was a learned man when it came to the Scriptures, and he thought he was righteous because he was spiritually zealous, he didn’t really know God. Imagine that. It is possible to pursue the knowledge of the Scriptures and fail to have a genuine experience with God. Listen, knowledge without Jesus is just knowledge, but knowledge with Jesus is transformation, life, satisfaction and power.
But Paul did have a genuine encounter with God’s love, and when he did, his entire life changed. His purpose changed. He became at peace with God and at peace with God’s people. Experiencing the love of God produces peace. Consider that. As Paul allowed the risen Christ, through the Holy Spirit’s power, to inhabit him, his love for God and for other people began to grow. It grew so much that the love of God for Paul and for the entire world, as was demonstrated through the sacrifice of Jesus, began to consume him. I think it is fair to say that Paul was controlled by the love of God which meant he became passionate about his love for God and others.
Paul said, “It is the love of God that causes me to get up out of bed every morning and preach the Word even though I do so at my own peril. It is the love of God that has caused me to wind up in prison for preaching the Gospel, and to be OK with that. It is the love of God that has led to me being beaten and run out of towns and cities. It is the love of God that spurs me on day after day to keep talking, to keep teaching, to keep touting the Good News of the Gospel. He is saying to us today, “Because I personally encountered God’s love when I met the Risen Christ that love has become my internal motivation and the driving force of my life.
And listen, it must have been so obvious that Paul was controlled by this internal reality because he was so radically committed to his mission to share God’s love that he was accused of being mentally unstable in II Corinthians 5:13. I mean, who in their right mind would put themselves through what the Apostle Paul willingly went through just to preach the Gospel? I will tell you, who…someone who had become gripped by the transforming and powerful love of God. For Paul, he was in so deep with the love of God that he could have no other response. There was nothing else he could do but preach the Gospel.
What compels you to do what you are doing every day? Is it the love of God and love for God or is it love for self and the things of this world? And that brings me to my second question:
Who are you living for? Look again at verse 15: And he (Jesus) died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
For Paul it was a no-brainer. Jesus had died for Paul, so Paul would live for Jesus. Paul went all in for Jesus. He said in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God who LOVED me and gave himself for me.” Do you see it? He was constrained by the love of God to count his life as over the moment he met Jesus because his desire was to pick up the life of Jesus and to live Jesus’ life out instead of his own. What devotion! What dedication! What passion! What purpose! And oh, the power and authority that Paul lived with. Wasn’t it evidence that he had accomplished his goal of being dead to himself and alive to the life of Christ being lived out through his own life?
Paul had a motto by which he lived that said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21. Can you receive the intensity and intentionality of that statement? Paul said that living for Christ was the only life he could even call life and that because death would bring a new face-to-face opportunity with Jesus, that he considered it a step up? Can you hear this morning that Jesus died so that you can live, but Jesus also died so that you can die without fear! Paul embraced that when you live for Christ you certainly don’t have to fear death, and you can look forward to the new opportunities it brings for life with Jesus. No wonder people thought he was mentally “coo coo for cocoa puffs.” That is crazy talk UNLESS you have found a love worth living for! That is nuts unless you have seen and experienced something that is better than and beyond than the things of this world.
So, Paul, compelled by the love of Christ, chose to live his life for Christ. How do we live FOR Christ? I believe the rest of this passage helps us understand that we live for Christ through peacemaking.
That is the climactic challenge of this passage. Look at verses 18-20: 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 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.
How do we begin to understand our call to be reconcilers, to be peacemakers? The rest of our text is going to help us. Let me ask you some more questions.
From what point of view do you see others?
Look at verse 16 again: So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
Paul was saying, “Hey, there was a time, before the love of God and before peace with God, that I thought Jesus was the problem. I thought He was my enemy. I thought His followers were my enemy. But now, I see Him and them and everyone in a different light.
What does it mean to no longer regard someone from a worldly point of view? Well, first, I think we need to quit taking our cues from the culture regarding how and what we should think about people.
We need to quit viewing people as our enemies and as problems and instead view them the way the Apostle Paul did in verse 15. He said that Christ died for everyone. So, one way we become peacemakers is to quit looking at people from a worldly point of view. I am not going to view people as my enemy. I will view Satan as my enemy. I know he is at work in and through people, but I will not view people as my enemy. I will not view people as a problem to have to put up with or deal with. I will look at them as an opportunity to be used of God to help them find Him. I will view people as those for whom Christ has died. That means they are precious to God. If they are precious to God, they need to be precious to me.
Regardless of your political party or your lifestyle, regardless of where you have come from or what your gender or race is, regardless of your religious beliefs or hurts, habits and hang-ups, you are precious to God and therefore you are precious to me. I will choose to view you that way and to make it my goal to live at peace with you and to help you find the peace that God offers.
We need a Heavenly or spiritual perspective of the value of every life. So, step one is to make a commitment to view people through Heaven’s eyes rather than a worldly point of view. Step two is this: Believe that every person can be transformed by the power of God. Look again at verse 17: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
While it is true that some people will never change, to think that all people cannot change is worldly thinking. Scripture tells us all things can be made new in a person’s life. The leader of our Addiction/Recovery ministry, Mike McCormick, posted his testimony online this week. He is seven years drug free. His whole life has changed as a result of God’s work in his life, and now he is helping others discover the same freedom he has found. He is helping others find peace with God and peace with themselves and peace with others. What Mike experienced is possible for anyone to experience if they will be relocated IN CHRIST.
Notice that Paul says that it is IN CHRIST that we are made new. We are not new creations because we go on a diet. We are not new creations because we enroll in an educational program. We are not new creations because we start a new relationship. We are not new creations because we take up a new hobby. We are not new creations because we switch jobs. We are not new creations because we change our hairstyles. We will not be new creations because we will create a “new normal” following a pandemic. We are new creations IN CHRIST. Peacemakers are people who believe that getting people to Jesus is the way to help them be made new. Listen Church, instead of lamenting how bad people are living, instead of shaming folks on social media for their sinful choices, how about we get them to Jesus and let Him make them new?
People do not need to become better versions of themselves through self-effort. They need to be made new. Mike McCormick was a drug addict. People said he would never change. People said he would always be an addict. People said Mike was a lost cause. Guess what? They were wrong! He is a found cause, ‘cause Jesus made him new! He has been made new and you can be made new and you can help others be made new like Mike has and is doing. If you want to live at peace with people who are living careless, reckless, selfish, self-absorbed, arrogant and wasteful lives, help them find peace with Jesus and a new identity, new values, a new mindset, new behaviors and a new purpose for life.
Paul gets extreme with how much a person can change. In verse 21, he says people can become the righteousness of God. That is pretty drastic. As people are made righteous, they will start to live right, and right living will generate peace between people. Am I right?
Verse 19 says that while God was reconciling the world to himself, He wasn’t counting men’s sins against them. That can be hard for us, can’t it? We like to hold onto offense. We like to remember the negative. What is that? Do we think it somehow makes us feel better about our own stuff? I don’t know, but in our minds, it is easy to put a label on someone because of sin they have committed and to limit them by that label. It is also easy to put up walls when people hurt and offend us. Those barriers will be barriers to peaceful living and to the offering of peace that Christ wants to make through us. In an effort to be a peacemaker, are you willing to drop some labels you have put on others? Are you willing to not count people’s sins against them?
In verse 19, Paul says God has committed the ministry of reconciliation, the ministry of peacemaking to us, His church. I mean, whoa. God has given us, God has committed to us, God has entrusted us with the responsibility of taking His offer to be made new, of taking His offer to be transformed completely to people who need it. Are you in the ministry, Christian? Are you in the ministry of reconciliation?
Oh, we’re just getting started on this peacemaking topic, but let me say this: The way I pursue peace and offer peace to others speaks to who Jesus is in me. Let me explain what I mean by asking some more questions. When you post on social media, are you taking Jesus into that discussion? When you confront something about a hurt or disappointment, are you taking Jesus into that conversation? When you address your spouse about something that frustrates you, are you leading with the kind of love, grace and forgiveness that Jesus would? When you get annoyed with a lack of customer service, do you address it with the careful compassion of Jesus?
I’m asking because Paul says here in II Corinthians 5:20 that we are Christ’s Ambassadors. That means, wherever we go, Christ is supposed to go. Whenever we speak, Christ is supposed to speak. What are people seeing and hearing from us as we go and as we speak? Is it that which is peace-producing? I wonder just how many seeds of peace I have sown this week.
The word “peace” has its roots in the Hebrew word, “Shalom.” It means you want the very best for someone in their health, their relationships, their finances, their work, their spiritual well-being, and in every facet of their life. Do you want God’s best for everyone you know? To be an Ambassador for Christ means you want total wellness and satisfaction for someone as you pursue peace with them and offer peace to them. To offer people peace is to offer a completeness that comes in and only through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Christ is the total package. He completes us in a way that makes us whole. His peace is comprehensive. I suppose we cannot say we are peacemakers if we aren’t sharing Him with those who need Him because He is the only way to experience peace.
I’ll simply close with a recap of some questions I have asked:
What compels you?
Who are you living for?
Do you believe people can change?
Are you willing to let go of people’s sins against you?
Do you want God’s best for everyone you know?
Are you in the ministry of peacemaking, the ministry of reconciliation?