Ministers of Reconciliation Are Controlled By Love – Part 1

Paul makes a strong statement in his second letter to the church in Corinth concerning our responsibilities as children of God.

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.                  – 2 Corinthians 5:18-21

It’s very clear we are to let folks know that God wants to see them reconciled to Him and that He has done everything necessary to make that happen. In the fifth chapter of Second Corinthians I see several important parts to this ministry we have been given.

  1. We must be controlled by Christ’s love.*
  2. We need to see others the way Good sees them.*
  3. We need to be committed to a ministry of reconciliation through Christ.*

These three things are essential but I suggest to you that two very important things must be determined and these will color much of how you approach this ministry. The two areas of importance can be viewed through your answers to these two questions.

  1. Do you believe God really forgives & do you fell completely free & forgiven?
  2. What is your understanding of who God is; his character and His actions?

If God can’t or won’t forgive, why would I want a relationship with Him? If I can’t feel really free and forgiven how can I convince someone else that THEY can be forgiven? If God is just waiting for me to slip-up then I won’t have an honest intimate relationship with Him. But if He is full of mercy and compassion – now that’s a God I can get next to.

God’s highest view of justice is restorative. He wants to make us whole again after we have crashed and burned. The Prodigal Son’s father was running down the road to hug him and welcome him home BEFORE he knew if his son was sorry, he just wanted his son back. The writer of Hebrews tells us that our Heavenly Father will forgive our sins and remember them no more. Take heart from the encouraging words from Psalm 103.

6 The Lord gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly. 7 He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel. 8 The Lord is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. 9 He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. 10 He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. 11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. 13 The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. 14 For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.15 Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. 16 The wind blows, and we are gone – as though we had never been here. 17 But the love of the Lord remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children 18 of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments!

*We’ll look at these next week.

Nadia Bolz-Weber – Forgiving

To Love, Lift Up Jesus

Jesus said that if he is lifted up he will draw people to himself and since he and the Father are one he will also draw them to the Father. Now I know that Jesus was referring to the fact that he would be nailed to a cross and put on public display as he was brutally tortured and killed.

Jesus even makes a connection to when Moses erected a bronze serpent in the wilderness. If anyone looked up at the serpent they would be healed of their snake bite – they’d be given new life. By being “raised up” Jesus provided for us new life as well. But think about this: looking up at the crucifixion was brutal, gory and sickening – however, looking up at the risen Savior who is seated above at the right hand of the Father, now that’s a good thing. So why don’t we lift up Jesus more?

Hebrews 1 tells us that Jesus is the exact representation of God. Now I know there are many things in the Bible that don’t seem to fit together and that some are just impossible to figure out; but I also know that none of it can contradict Jesus because that would contradict God. Let’s look at three things that will help us lift up Jesus.

  • We need to get along with one another. In Jesus’ prayer in John 17 he specifically asks that we get along so that people of the world will know that he was sent from God. Whoa, it seems very important that we get along. The Apostle Paul tells the church in Philippi (Philippians 2) that it will bring great joy to his heart if they are united and of one heart.

Get involved with Common Grace (Australia)

  • We need to get out of the way. Continuing in Philippins 2 we read that we should do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Even further we should value others before our own selves. Paul says that this is the attitude that Jesus had and we should follow his example. In other words, it’s not about us. We need to submit to the will of the Father. We’re to love our neighbors and our enemies. This isn’t easy. This type of submission led Jesus to the cross.
  • We need to get a new attitude (about who we are and where we’re from). In 1 John 4:11-12 we read that although no one has seen God if we love one another , the God who loves us will live in us and his love will be brought to its full expression. Wow, that’s a big statement. God’s love is brought to full expression in us. Combine that with the statement that the world will know the truth of God through our love for one another and you can easily see that God has asked much of us but has also supplied much in the way of life giving love. And don’t forget that in Philippians 2 Paul reminds the readers that God exalted Jesus – Jesus didn’t have to do ti himself and neither do you.

You are already a resident of heaven. We are just temporary residents here on earth. What w do for eternal things matters more that being successful in the here and now. Your permanent home is heaven and you are just setting up camp here for a short season (just like Jesus). Live like someone who has just come from the presence of the Almighty, Merciful, Gracious and Loving God.

We are the ambassadors of Christ so we must be sure we stay on point. The message is that God loves the world and wants to draw everyone (no exceptions) to himself. So, lift him up.

Sunday Songs

Here I Am To Worship

How Great IS Our God – Chris Tomlin/Passion

At The Mention Of Your Name – Brian & Jenn Johnson

Love Is A Two-way Street

“We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love, and when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world. For love is the only way. There’s power in love.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Feeling loved makes life better. Most of us want to be loved for who we are, not simply for what we can do. Love requires risk and it’s often hard, particularly when you are trying to love someone who doesn’t like you.

Throughout all of time there have been competing images of God ranging from a hateful, vengeful really bothered old man to a loving, caring, merciful father and everything in between. So let’s take a look at our relationship with God based on what his written word says about it.

  1. This love relationship is a two-way street. In John’s first letter he says, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” He then continues a few sentences later with, “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.” (1 John 4:7,8,12 & 16) The back and forth is evidence of God’s love for us because we show that same love for others. Perhaps the most significant statement is that God’s love is brought to its full expression in us. Wow!

The great command is the embodiment of these verses: love God, love one another, love yourself – why? Because God first loved you (1 John 4:19)

2. God looks just like Jesus. Two significant parts of Christ’s mission on earth were to show us how to live and reveal what God is like. Hebrews 1:1-3 says, “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command.” The New International Version uses the term “exact representation” to explain how Jesus the Son shows us God the Father.

There are some things in the Bible that are hard to understand. There are confusing events. There are teachings that are nigh-on-to-impossible to rectify to one another. But here is what is always true; the unchanging God is revealed in Jesus so everything has to pass the “Jesus” test. Does it look like Jesus? Would Jesus do it? Does it contradict Jesus? Knowing that our thoughts, actions, plans, etc must look like Jesus makes it simpler – not easier, just simpler.

If you want to know God better, get to know Jesus. If you want to live a life that pleases God, live like Jesus.

“If the mystery of God is a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle, the picture on the front of the box is the face of Jesus!”

Brian Zahnd – Sinners In The Hands Of A Loving God

 Sunday Songs

Holy, Holy, Holy – Audrey Assad

How He Loves Us – David Crowder

Your Love Never Fails – Jesus Culture

Learning To Live In Love

Love – according to the famous lyrics; it’s a “many splendored thing”, “it’s what the world needs, NOW!” and apparently it’s “all you need.”

Love – everyone wants to feel it. We have love for everything from specific foods to sports teams, from pieces of art to places around the world. We want love from those we care about and value. Many of us want God to be one of those who loves us. Certainly God is faithful, shows mercy and dispenses compassion, but does he love (specifically me) all the time?

I want to believe the answer is yes and Scripture seems to back up that hope. If we dig past “God so loved the world” and get to the nitty-gritty of daily living the Bible is clear that God is for me even when I waiver in my love for him.

In the midst of some serious praise Psalm 103 has a bunch to say about our love relationship with God. Let’s look at four of those things.

  1. God’ love is unconditional…no matter what. Verse 8 tells us that his love is unfailing and that in the expression of that love he shows compassion, mercy and a really important one (to me) patience. When you think of the Prodigal Son remember that the father loved him, looked for him, ran to hug him and welcomed him home (complete with a party)  BEFORE he knew if his son was sorry for what he had done. When Peter denied having any knowledge of, or relationship to Jesus; he must have had a broken heart. Yet quickly after his resurrection he went out of his way to welcome Peter back BEFORE he talked with him. Unfailing, unconditional love is a wonderful thing.
  2. God’s love is not earned…or forfeited. When we do wrong we are still loved. It doesn’t mean there are no consequences or that the relationship doesn’t change, but it does mean that no matter what we are loved! In the middle of the Psalm we read that God does not constantly accuse us, remain angry forever, punish us for all our sins or deal harshly with us (even if we deserve tougher treatment than we receive). The psalmist continues by telling us that God is like a tender and compassionate father who understands we are weak and made of dust. He also states once again that the love of God is unfailing. You can’t hear that too many times.
  3. God’s love is unending…in power. It’s a simple statement but an important one. The unfailing love (there’s that promise again) is as great as the heights of heaven. There appears to be no limit, at least that we can determine, to the  size of the heavens (the space beyond us and past where we can see). I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that the awesome power of God is clothed in unfailing love.
  4. God’s love is unending…in time. Once again a simple statement and once again an important and profound truth. The love of God doesn’t have an expiration date. It doesn’t run out of patience, forgiveness or mercies. Most of us have tried the patience of someone in our lives. We may have cause others to get to the “end of their rope,” but not God. His love is constant, consistent, all-encompassing and always sufficient. Now that’s good news.

 

Quote of the week:

“My prayer is that, weary of such noise, we will turn back to the source of all calmness, that source is God. Everything we lack, God has in abundance: Compassion, sensitivity, patience and boundless love.”

Janet Jackson – 2018 Billboard Music Awards

Sunday Songs & Videos

Brennan Manning – Do You Believe That I Loved You?

Get Your Hopes Up – Josh Baldwin

Here I Am To Worship – Chris Tomlin

Holy IS The Lord – Chris Tomlin

Path Of Peace

Peace was the way our world was made to operate. One human race caring for and looking out for one another. Personal differences fueled by self-centered individuals lead to jealousy and murder…quite quickly I might add. Still we long for peace even if it is only an inner peace surrounded by a tumultuous world. How do live in peace?

  1. We need to pursue peace. Psalm 34:14 tells us to turn away from evil and do good – then search for peace and work to maintain it. We’re to run after peace which often means giving up some of our comfort and self-centered plans. We need to desire peace because it always comes at some cost. Then once we find it the psalmist tells us that we need to work to maintain it. Apparently our natural inclination is to stray away from the generosity of spirit that is required for peace.
  2. Remember that peace is promised to those that love the law of the Lord (Psalm 119:165). And what is that law? Well, according to Jesus you can sum it up by loving God, loving others (neighbors & enemies) and loving yourself. Be content to be with God. It is the unrest of the “desire for more, more, more” and lack of satisfaction that drives many of our conflicts.
  3. Listen carefully to what God says and then act. In other words, practice peaceful living. Psalm 85:8 tells us to listen carefully to what God says, for he speaks peace to his faithful people. We need that voice from God to counteract our own ways which the psalmist describes as foolish. In other words we need to know the difference between the voice of God and our own voice.
  4. Remember this: peace is our blessing. In Psalm 29, a psalm of praise we read about the voice of God. In fact after an introductory statement to worship God the rest of the Psalm talks about the voice of God – until the last sentence. There we read that the Lord gives strength to his people but he BLESSES them with PEACE. Mot of us like to feel blessed and we often say it to describe good things that happen in our lives. This is the ultimate blessing. God’s blessing over us is peace. That’s why this isn’t a teaching about the path TO peace, but rather a path OF peace. We are already in the midst of the peace of God we just need to live in the truth of that reality.

SUNDAY SONGS

Come As You Are – David Crowder

I Shall Not Want – Audrey Asaad

Cornerstone – Hillsong

The Power of Praise

When are you most hopeful? What kinds of people or events give you hope? On the other hand, when do you feel hopeless?

We all want hope, but sometimes it just doesn’t seem to exist. When we are hopeful we are more likely to praise others and our circumstances. When we’re down, praise doesn’t flow quite as easily. But what if praise could lead the way to hope? What if praise was designed to be our default setting? How would that change how you live?

I suggest to you that praise is essential, that from God’s view praise is the engine that drives the universe.

Let’s take a look at Psalm 148. From top to bottom the Psalmist wants us to know that no matter who or what you, praise is the name of the game. He starts with – and closes with – the simple statement; “Praise the Lord!” In between he makes sure that everything and everyone understands their part in praising God.

  • The skies and heavens – vs 1
  • The angels & armies of heaven – vs 2
  • The sun, moon and stars – vs 3
  • The skies and upper atmosphere (once again) – vs 4
  • Every created thing, because God gave them life and set them in motion – vs 5 & 6
  • The earth and ocean creatures – vs 7
  • The “elements” – fire, hail, snow, wind, clouds…and the weather – vs 8
  • Topography & vegetation – mountains, hills, fruit trees & cedars – vs 9
  • Animals – wild & domestic, small ones and ones that fly – vs 10
  • People & power – kings, rulers, judges & ordinary folks – vs 11 & 12

He sums up the Psalm by declaring that they all should praise the Lord because his name and glory are so great we can’t completely grasp their vastness. He also declares that God has made his people strong and honors those who are faithful.

Apparently creation praises God simply by fulfilling the purpose for which it was created. It reminds me of the statement Jesus made in response to the demand that he stop the people from praising him as he rode into Jerusalem; “If they keep quiet, the stones (rocks) will cry out.”

We can do the same. We were created to honor God, to love, worship and praise his holy name – regardless of the circumstances. We praise, not because things are good but because it is the right and God-honoring thing to do. Praising God puts us in a better place to please him and yield to his will, which in turn also pleases him.

So, let’s praise the Lord – and please him – all in the same breath.

Sunday Stuff

An interesting article about hope:

Moving With God: Deeper Than Optimism, Hope Is A Virtue

Music

Holy, Holy, Holy – Audrey Assad

Every Praise – Hezekiah Walker

10,000 Reasons – Matt Redman

Your Deepest Desire

Life often doesn’t go the way we plan. As a matter of fact, life throws a mean curve-ball. Days start in one direction and then with little or no warning go sideways. Put a few of them together and it can get a little discouraging and become quite frustrating. Times like these often begin to raise questions of self-doubt. We have thoughts like:

  • Why aren’t things going my way?
  • What did I do to deserve this?
  • Why aren’t I more successful?
  • Doesn’t God love me anymore?

When things aren’t going well or others aren’t treating us in an encouraging & uplifting way we need to decide what it is we really need to improve our quality of life. What will genuinely make our life better, not just make us feel better for a little while. In other words, what is our deepest need or desire?

I would suggest that our deepest desire is to be valued by another; to be loved unconditionally by someone else. Let’s take a look at Psalm 43 to see what David wanted from God.

  1. David wanted to be declared innocent by God. He also wanted God to defend him, to contend for him – to fight on his behalf. He also wanted God to deliver him from peril, to rescue him.
  2. David moves on to express his feelings of abandonment. He is so dependent on God and ONLY God that he wants God to desire him and at the moment he feels as though God has hung him out to dry.
  3. David needs God’s light to shine really bright to direct him back to God. He really needs to be sure God hasn’t forgotten him. Following God’s light is always the right way to travel the path of Life.
  4. David is delighted with God and wants to sing his praises. He really hopes the feeling is mutual. David even goes so far as to say that the very source of his joy is God. It’s a great place to be because it is a fountain that will never run dry.
  5. David comes full circle in verse five by questioning why he is discouraged. He knows he shouldn’t be and that he needs to return to what he knows is true. He determines to be delighted with God and make praise the sound track of his life.

If your greatest need is God then it can be filled all the time, regardless of our actions or attitudes. God unconditionally loves us. Consider this quote from Brennan Manning.

At the risk of sounding like a country cracker cowboy preacher, allow me to raise some intimate, personal questions about your relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. Do you live each day in the blessed assurance that you have been saved by the unique grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? After falling flat on your face, are you still firmly convinced that the fundamental structure of reality is not works but grace? Are you moody and melancholy because you are still striving for the perfection that comes from your own efforts and not from faith in Jesus Christ? Are you shocked and horrified when you fail? Are you really aware that you don’t have to change, grow, or be good to be loved?

Sunday Songs

Surrounded – Michael W. Smith

Defender – Rita Springer

My Lighthouse – Rend Collective