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What's Good For Us is Good For Others
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:16
Track 4 of 8 in the Persuasive Words: Living So Others May Know series
Running time: 33 minutes, 56 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, November 27, 2005

Words to Live By
Persuasive Words
Living So Others May Know

(2Corinthians 5:16)
Copyright 2005 G. Charles Sackett

I walked into the Fitness Center at the school. Standing over near the bench press was a college student that would make about three or four of me helping a guy a little smaller than I am to work out. He didn't look like he was having a great deal of trouble with the amount that this younger or smaller fella was working with and I looked over a few minutes later and it was the big guy's turn to work. Now I don't know a lot about weight lifting except that when there are three 45 lb. weights on each end of the bar and the bar is bending in the middle, I'm impressed.

I think it adds up to somewhere around 305 lbs. and he's using it like, you and I might use a 10 lb. dumbbell to work out with. And I stood there with my mouth kind of hanging open, thinking I probably look like an idiot just watching this guy, because it was such an impressive display of just shear strength.

Later I was talking, in fact, it left such an impression that I was actually talking about it later in the day to a colleague of mine who begins to tell about this guy who played for Indiana football and decided that he really wanted to be involved in ministry and gave up his football scholarship and came to school. And he was telling me about his family situation and I had this very conscious awareness that my attitude toward him was shifting. No longer was I impressed with just his size and strength. Suddenly, there was something about him that was really appealing to me, something about his heart.

I don't suppose you're ever guilty of those kinds of first impressions though, right? Or you assume something long before you know anything about the person that you're looking at. I don't suppose it happens too often even in churches, but maybe occasionally. We're allowing outward appearance to bias how we feel about things.

This has probably been fifteen or twenty years ago I was sitting in a church in central Illinois. I was there to preach, visiting. It was one of those churches that still had the pre-Sunday school gathering where the announcements were made before everybody drifted off to their Sunday school classes. The fella making the announcements was actually addressing a need for prayer. As I recall, it was a brother of his, who lived in Chicago and was now missing. And he was asking us to pray that everything was okay and that he might be found. You could sense just a bit of the tension in the air as he relayed this story, and I remember this line as if it happened this morning. "He was last seen being followed by three black men." And everything in the room changed. Just the mention that they were black, biased everybody in the room. Outward appearance! First impression!

I remember being in the gym. I've told you this story before, when David walked in. He was a long-haired hippy back in the sixties, only this was in the seventies and he just hadn't caught up with the rest of us. And I remember thinking to myself, he needs to get out of here because our kids are in here playing. In fact, I have this distinct memory of walking across the gym floor to where David was standing and as I'm walking across there creating the speech for how I'm going to tell him to leave, I have this distinct weight in my spirit that says, "Ask him to stay." And it's like, "you have to be kidding!" And I'm trying to get the words out of my mouth, "David, it's time for you to leave" and what comes out of my mouth is, "David, why don't you stay."

(Heavy breath!) He ended up becoming a Bible college professor.

It's easy, isn't it, to make first impressions? To allow outward appearance to govern how you're going to feel about somebody, to look at the outside rather than the inside. That's the general principle that we're trying to drive at this morning. It is, in fact, just a simple thing for us to get caught in the trap of looking at the outward appearance of someone.

In fact, when Paul is talking about his own conversion experience and reflecting on his relationship to the church in Jerusalem after some accusations about his leadership, he makes this comment. (Galatians 2:6) As for those who seemed to be important - whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not judge by external appearance. Paul understood something. He understood something about the nature of God not to look upon the outward side of a person.

You will remember, those of you who have been around church for awhile, the story of Saul and his being head and shoulders taller than anybody else. And then losing his ability to reign in Israel because he failed to do the things that God desired for him to do and God sending Samuel to the family that was going to provide the king to follow Saul. Samuel shows up at this particular family household. He begins to ask the father to send the sons by in order for Samuel to look and see who the next king might be. The text says, (1Samuel 16:6-7) When they arrived, Samuel say Eliab and thought, "surely the Lord's anointed stands here before the Lord."

But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

You beginning to get the general picture here that we're trying to drive at? This thing isn't about outward appearances. It's not about what a person looks like on the outside. It's not about your impression of a person.

See, that's the very thing that Israel struggled with with Jesus: was that they wanted to look at him from an outward perspective. They had their mind made up about what He was supposed to be like and when they saw Him they automatically categorized Him and put Him in a nice little pigeonhole. In fact, you get that message pretty clearly in the Gospel of John as they wrestle with Jesus. You hear this statement, for example. Jesus responding to those who are judging Him, the Pharisees. John 8:15 You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one.

Just a chapter before, same kind of context he says, John 7:24 Stop judging by mere appearances, . . . . ." I guess I'm really trying to get you to ask this question. Is there anybody that you know that is outside God's reach? Anybody you know that, well, just based by what you know about them so far, you might have a tendency to say, well, they would never become a Christian. They would never be interested in the things of God. they wouldn't want to hear about the birth of Jesus the way we understand it. Anybody you know that lives outside of the possibility that they might have an interest in the things of God?

I'm fascinated by this statement by the apostle Paul in Titus 2:11. It says, For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. At least that's the way the New International Version translates that. The New American Standard says, For the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation to all men.

Or do you recall when Peter is called to Cornelius' household? Cornelius being a God-fearing Gentile. Peter being a good God-fearing Jew. And when the Holy Spirit arrives at Cornelius' household, Peter making this amazing discovery, God is not shut off from anyone.

The text we're looking at is 2Corinthians 5 I'm particularly interested this morning in 2Corinthians 5:16. We will, by the way eventually make it all the way through this text by Christmas time. We'll have exhausted it, if not exhausted you in the process.

2Corinthians 5:16. Paul says in this great passage. 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.

Once he said, we used to look at people from the outward side. We judged them according to their appearance. We saw them from a worldly point of view. . . . . .from now on, he says, we won't do that. . . . . .from now on, from when, well from when is in reference to the previous text that we looked at last week. Go back up just a little ahead of this to 2Corinthians 5:14 For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 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.

I think he's trying to suggest to us that there comes a point in a person's life when they become aware that God has somehow invaded their life and taken them over. They no longer live for themselves. "It's no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me."

From that moment of conversion, we become "New". That's what 2Corinthians 5:17. says. If you stay right here in the text, just drop down to the other side of that. He says, Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! We're going to take a look at that verse in some detail next week. We become new. Everything about us is recreated, including how we see people.

If we have become disciples of Jesus, he says, from that point on, we no longer see people the same way. We regard no one, he says, according to the flesh. Oh, he said, we used to do that.

My wife is a fan of the era represented in the movie Pride and Prejudice. I don't know if you'll get a chance to see it or not. It's actually a pretty good movie. It's one of the few family oriented flicks, I think, that are probably out there. One of the things that was interesting in watching the movie was how quickly people made judgments about a person. In fact, if you've read the book by Jane Austin, you know that is the premise of the entire story line. That people have made some kind of judgment based on an outward appearance which proves to be absolutely false by the end of the story.

We used to do this, he said. We used to see people from the outside. We used to believe that we could judge by looking at another person and making a decision about them prior to ever knowing anything about them. He said, we don't do that any more. Ever since we've been converted, things have changed in the way that we see people.

Now there are some obvious implications for that. I mean, really simple, just life kinds of implications that show up out here every day. Those of you who live out here in the work-a-day world, who have to deal with people all the time recognize that one of the things that we struggle with is trying to treat people as people, because sometimes they're, well, sometimes they're extra care required.

I was sitting in the airport in Minneapolis, waiting. Actually discovered later we were waiting for our crew to come from Memphis. I've never understood that whole system of why you put a crew that's going to fly a plane in Minneapolis, in Memphis in the first place. But, be that as it may, it's going to be a long day sitting in the Minneapolis airport. I'm sitting there watching and there is a lady standing there trying to handle a number of disgruntled passengers, which she does with great grace. I think she deserves a raise.

And then a young Filipino woman walks up. She looks like she's twelve, which means she's probably like eighteen years old. She's about this high - and she looks confused. And I'm just within earshot and I hear this woman carrying on this conversation with this young girl. But what I discover is, that she has married an American but she couldn't leave the Country when he left the Country so she's now flying to Cleveland to join her husband. She wants to know where such-'n-such a flight is supposed to disembark from. Well, discovery is, she missed her plane by twelve hours. It left last night on another airline. She's not even in the right terminal. And the lady behind the counter picks up the telephone. Makes a phone call to Cleveland. Gets the airport. Finds her husband. I'm listening to this conversation. She makes arrangements for the husband to drive from Cleveland to Columbus because there is a plane that she can catch on another airline and she personally walks her down to the airline and puts her on the plane.

And I'm thinking, "this is a woman who knows something about how to treat people like people." Now, I don't know whether she's a believer or not, but I like to think in my heart, something in there allowed her to see beyond the human side of this to the real need in people.

I think that is what Paul is trying to drive at. We no longer look at people from an external point of view, but we allow ourselves to see within them and to evaluate them differently because we are believers. Because something has happened in us.

I remember when Bill Cosby show was on and I used to enjoy thoroughly, watching the Cosby clan as they learned how to interact with one another. And I will never forget this particular episode when the son, Theo, came walking in with his buddy, whose name I don't remember, and their having a conversation about the girls at the high school and the conversation goes something like: "Oh she is a double Whopper with cheese." I remember laughing and then I remember remembering I have three daughters and I hated the thought that they were being evaluated by double Whoppers and being treated like an object.

I think if you're a believer, you don't treat people that way. I think that's what Paul would say. But, see, it's far more important than just how we view people out here in our every day world because the implications, not just for our life as Christians, but for our life as a church are perfectly clear. Because quite frankly, as a believer, I certainly wouldn't want you to ever be offended by this, but, I really only have one question about you. Do you know Jesus? It's not that I don't want to know more than that about you, because in order to know the answer to that question I probably will need to know more than that about you. But, ultimately, all I'm trying to find out about you in the long run is, do you know Jesus?

You see, as a Christian, as a disciple myself, as one who has been made new, I hope, by Jesus, what I need to know is, "Mike" are you a believer? Because if you're a believer, I have one responsibility for you, to you. That's to help you become a better believer. To help you become a disciple.

But, if you're not a believer, I only have one responsibility. To do everything in my power to help you come to know Jesus. It doesn't happen to matter whether I like you or not. You still have that card in your Bible? I still like you as long as it stays in that Bible.

Do you understand? For a believer there is only one real concern we should have about anybody we meet, whether it's at the bank or the store or at work, or wherever it happens to be. Is this person in a right relationship with Jesus? Not, are they pretty. . . .are they nice. . . .are they kind. That is all absolutely, totally immaterial to a Christian.

My responsibility is to discover whether or not you know Christ and if you don't know Christ, to figure out how to engage your life in such a way that either I or somebody else can help you come to know Him. And if you are a believer, to try to figure out how together, we can become better disciples.

That being the case, that creates a mind set in a church that sounds a little like our Mission Statement. . . . ."Whatever it takes to love and reach the lost", literally, whatever it takes, because what's most important is for people to come to understand that they need a relationship with Christ.

And so, whether it's our facility; or our finances; or our programming; or the way we invest in ministry; at every turn we're asking the question, "Does this help us help people find Jesus or be found by Him?"

When I go to the mail room, the first thing I look for is a little sign on the mail box that says, "Package Below" because that usually means a free book has arrived. I like books! I like "free" books! This one was free. It was written by Wes Stafford who is the President of Compassion International. Some of you would have familiarity with Compassion. They help homeless children around the world. This book is called "Too Small to Ignore".

Stafford talks about going to a conference. I'll read just a piece of it. He says, "I attended an International Conference for Sharing Vision Strategies, Programs and the Priorities to bring the world to Christ by the year 2000. I went enthusiastically, notebook in hand, to glean from the very best, what all of us could do in this great effort to reach the world for Christ. What strategic role could my child focused organization play in this exciting movement? I sat there pen poised as the first few speakers made their case for what they were doing and why. By the third speaker I realized that I had written nothing down. Not one Christian leader had said anything about children and how to evangelize them in this final hour of human history. By the end of the conference I had heard the words 'child' or 'children' only twelve times and never in the context of a specific strategy to reach them. They were, instead, lumped into the broader group of every man, woman and child."

He was hoping to have an opportunity during the kind of closing session, when they were going to allow an open mike, to have a chance to speak. Well, they got behind and so nobody was allowed to get up and speak but he says, "If I had the chance this is what I would say, "People, humor me for just a brief moment. All of you close your eyes and picture this great harvest of humanity you've been talking about so passionately. What does that vast sea of people actually look like? You've spoken eloquently about the needs of the 1040 window. Who are these individuals who stretch across Asia and Africa knowing nothing of Christ's atoning work and needing to hear the message of salvation? If, in your mental image, of that vast sea of humanity, every other person is not a child, you don't know what the harvest looks like. Fully half the world, especially the developing world are children and teenagers."

Do you understand how he sees his world? He sees his world through the eyes of one whose fallen in love with children and recognizes that half the people in the world are just children. And that 80% of the people who become Christians become Christians while they're still children and it's captured his heart.

And I find myself reading the book and asking myself about us. Do we have that same kind of passion to look around the world that we live in and say, who are the folks who most need Jesus and have that captivate our heart so that's all we see and all we hear? So that every moment we are wondering, is there some way for us to help somebody else to come to know Christ? To know Him better than they already know Him.

In our worship we do everything we can to give you who are believers an opportunity to worship in a way that expresses your relationship with God, but, we also work extremely hard to make sure that our worship is understandable to people who don't yet know Christ. We think that's biblical, 1Corinthians 14 that when the uninformed comes into the assembly, they do not find themselves unable to understand.

Our Wednesday programming has been revamped in order to start fresh in January. And one of the things we are hoping will happen is that we will offer the kind of thing that other people who don't yet know Jesus might find to be conducive to coming. We're hoping that it's the kind of thing that you would want to invite your friends to come with you to experience.

It's only two weeks away and we'll be having our annual Christmas program here. The place will be a bit transformed. It will look a little different. We'll do things a little differently and it will be an opportunity for you to reach out to the neighbors around you and to your friends and invite them to come and hear the story of the Savior told in a way that might arrest their attention long enough for Christ to have a chance to speak.

But my guess is that some of you are just like me. You've already made a decision about some people that it wouldn't do any good to ask, because they probably wouldn't want to come anyway. Do ya hear it? It's 2Corinthians 5:16 coming alive.

. . . .from now on we no longer view people according to the flesh even though we used to view Jesus that way, we do so no longer.

You see, our temptation as human beings is to make a judgment ahead of time based on somebody's outward appearance or their attitude or some history that we have with them and we make up our mind, they wouldn't want to know Jesus, or they wouldn't be able to know Jesus or they would have no interest in Jesus. And so, we never bother to offer Him to them. Not because we know they don't want Him. But because we think they don't want Him.

Can I encourage you to buy a handful of tickets and take them to the very people that you think don't want to know Jesus and just invite them to be your guests and hear the Christmas story fresh one more time.

See, somehow the basic core value of this congregation that no one is beyond God's reach, no one is outside of His love, has to come alive in some other way than just words on a piece of paper. You can write it down. We can put it in paper and ink, but if it sits in a brochure somewhere on somebody's shelf, it's absolutely meaningless.

And we can have some deeply committed staff who, in their heart of hearts, believe this to be true, but can't begin to reach all the people that you know on their own. Or we can do what we have done for years in this place. We can care enough about people to simply ask them to join us. To offer an invitation; to engage them in a conversation; to become their friends; to invite them into your world; to just give them an opportunity to be something other than what you think they might be. Not because you have already made up your mind ahead of time, decide for them, instead of giving them a chance to decide for themselves.

It's terribly human. In fact, it's so utterly human, it has to be, just has to be true that we are by nature, prejudice. We tend to make outward judgments, tend to decide ahead of time what somebody else is gonna think but because we have become disciples; because we have become believers in Jesus, we're going to view people differently from here on out. That's what 2Corinthians says. We used to view people this way, but from now on we do so no longer.

Some of you will remember this fella's name. Lou Johnson played for the Los Angeles Dodgers back in the days of Sandy Cofax(??) and Don Drysdale. In fact, his claim to fame was that he hit the winning home run in the 7th game of the World Series and brought the Dodgers a championship. It wasn't very long after that, that Lou Johnson began to have problems with drugs and alcohol. In fact, he gave up everything. His uniform, his bat, his glove - sold it in order to buy drugs. In fact, gave up his world series ring to support his habit. Somehow, and I don't know how that happened. . . .somewhere along the way he found himself in a Rehab program and was rehabed[?rehabilitated] of his drug habit. He actually became and employee, a public relations employee for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Somehow the owner of the Dodgers found out that his world series ring was being auctioned off on the internet and so, before it could go on sale, he bought it for $3,457 and he presented it back to Lou Johnson as a gift.

Johnson cried and said, "I feel like I have been born again."

You understand something, whatever it is you've traded your life for, you can't buy it back yourself. Somebody else has got to do it on your behalf. Rehab program or no, will never get you in a relationship with God. That has to be done by somebody else. And there is one who's done that. Who looked into your heart and frankly, overlooked your sin. Did not judge you based on human appearances. Did not take a look at your life and say, "you're too bad, too ugly, too anything." Looked at you and said, "I want you as my brother, my sister" and so, He gave up His life so that you could live. He bought you back. That is, if you're willing to be bought. If you're willing to step aside long enough to say, "whatever it is that I've allowed to cloud my vision of what God wants in my life, I'll set it aside and I will come and allow God to make me NEW." Because in all honesty, sometimes our ability to judge people is worse when we're judging ourselves.

And while it's a terrible thing to look at somebody else and say they would never want to become a Christian, it's a far worse thing to be able to look at yourself and say I'm not worthy of becoming a Christian. This isn't about your worth. That's already been established. You're worth enough that God himself has sent His Son to die for you.

You're worth the universe to Him and He wants you. He wants you in a personal relationship with Him.

I don't know what hinders you from having that relationship, but I hope you have the ability to set it down. 'Cause you ought let nothing stand between you and Him. Nothing!

What we're hoping is that if you don't know Jesus, you'll get to know Him. If you do know Jesus, that you'll get over whatever it is that stands between you and those folk out there who don't yet know Him and they will become your passion.

Let's sing together.