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Beggars for Christ
12/18/2005
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
Track 7 of 8 in the Persuasive Words: Living So Others May Know series
Running time: 29 minutes, 06 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, December 18, 2005

Words to Live By
"BEGGARS FOR CHRIST"
Persuasive Words
Copyright 2005 G. Charles Sackett

(2Corinthians 5:18-20)
C. Sackett


Next Sunday's Christmas. You probably knew that, but in case enough advertisers hadn't forewarned you, you only have six shopping days left.

The frustrating thing was that I got an email today from one of my favorite book companies that said, "The after Christmas sale is now on." The after Christmas sale! My wife tells me that Hobby Lobby has already gotten rid of most of their Christmas stuff and they're off to the next holiday on the horizon.

Spring apparently is coming. You wouldn't know by looking. Somehow it just annoys me that we can't even get to Christmas before we've already got "after Christmas sales". Like, somehow, whatever happens that we represent or at least recognize next week must not have been overly significant and if we've already taken advantage of it as much as we can, now let's move on.

It is in some ways a preacher's dilemma. I mean the standard rule is if you're going to preach a holiday sermon like Christmas, you always have to preach it the week ahead.

I mean, if Christmas were to fall, for example, on a Saturday and you would decide to preach your Christmas sermon on Sunday, it's too late because people have already moved on. They're thinking about New Years already.

So next week is just really a dilemma. I mean, it is Christmas. Not post-Christmas or pre-Christmas, it's just Christmas, so what are you gonna do? You're gonna wait 'til next week to preach your Christmas sermon? Yes and no. We're going to take advantage of both Sundays, frankly, and I'm going to preach to you from this text we've been looking at and we're going to talk about Christmas. 2Corinthians 5

Let's go back. It's been awhile since we've picked up the first part of this text. Let's not forget about this entire section. 2Corinthians 5:11

Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 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.

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. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 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. 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. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says,

"In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you."

I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

I'm going to focus particularly on Verses 18 through 21. God has reconciled us to himself and has given to us a ministry of reconciliation. That is that we have been given this word of reconciliation made to be ambassadors for Christ.

The first part of our service we had a little trouble getting that Advent candle up there. Sorry about that. The Advent candle is the candle of love this week. The reminder, as we anticipate the coming of Jesus that Christmas is the story of God's love for us. Beyond everything else, that's what this whole season is about. May be wrapped up in this Christmas text. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. . . . . You haven't forgotten that this is what this season is all about, right? Jesus' birthday. That God gave his Son. He gave Him because He loved us. That He chooses to love us. In fact, if you read Scripture carefully, you discover, that frankly, Christ doesn't have a choice because it's His nature to love us. It's in Him. He doesn't do anything other than that. It's just who He is. He loves by nature.

This text that we've read is so clear about the love of God. "God was 'in Christ' reconciling the world to Himself." You can't say, God loves you any more profoundly than God chose to become human and live among us so that He could reconcile us to Himself. It's the Christmas story from John 1. "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld His glory. Glory as of the Only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

John 1:18. says, "No one has ever seen God, the only begotten of the Son of the Father has revealed Him to us."

Jesus came as a statement about God reconciling the world to Himself at His expense. This text is a text about love, not counting their sins against them.

I know you'll find this hard to imagine but I found myself in the 6th grade standing in the principal's office. Not as an honor student. In fact, I was not alone. There was my friend George, who in the 6th grade was already a about a hand taller than I am now and then there was my other friend George. So George, George and I were standing in front of the principal's desk. Laying on the principal's desk was a piece of rubber hose. Principals no longer have those. They're illegal. This one had been shaped into the form of a tennis racket with the handle taped. It also serves a shape somewhat different than a tennis racket. You'll have to use your imagination as to what size it was formed into.

I don't recall at this particular point what it was that we did. It seemed unimportant to me but, it was obviously important to the principal because we were there and we were about to catch whatever he was going to give with the rubber hose when George (big George, the big one, 6'2" or 6'3", whatever he was in the sixth grade) crumbled into a pile of tears. I mean he wept like a baby. And this before the principal had ever picked up the rubber hose.

At first I kind of snickered and thought "baby", but when I saw the result, that the principal was no longer going to count our sins against us, I was really glad. There's a word for that. It's called grace.

But that story's too simple. Because it's really not quite an accurate picture of grace. But it roughly parallels the story of the young boy who'd gotten himself in trouble on multiple occasions who stood before the principal, who had taken a wrap on the knuckles on so many occasions that he stood literally defiantly in the principal's office holding out his hands saying, "get it over with." And the principal turned to him and said, "I want to introduce you to a word you apparently are not familiar with. The Word is grace." And he handed the ruler to the assistant principal and he said to the young man, " Now, you count." And the principal stood with his hands out and the assistant principal began to draw welts on the backs of his hands. At the count of four, the young man said, "STOP!" And the principal said,

"NO." And after the ten wraps on the back of his hands, he turned to the young man and said, "There's a word for this, grace."

That's Christmas. When God absorbs your punishment. I would think that we would want to get up on Sunday morning next week and thank Him for loving us.

But it's not just that Christmas reminds me that God loves me. It's the fact that Christmas reminds us all of God's call in our life. Did you hear the text in Matthew? You've read it I'm sure, a dozen times in your life. Jesus says to the people standing around, who are, as Lacey describes them this morning, coming with trouble and difficulty and he says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. . . . . . For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

That's the call that God gives in Christmas. Come to me. . . . In fact, it's written all over this particular text. Verse 20 says, "We implore you." It's a great word. Actually we don't implore much in the 21st century. We don't even use the word very much. It literally means to "beg". It's the word that is used of people who came to Jesus and literally begged Him for healing or for mercy or for life. This text says, "we beg you.' "Be reconciled to God." That's God's call. "Be reconciled." Do you notice this, those of you who are English students? It's passive. "Be reconciled." It's something that is done to you, because frankly, you can't do it. There is no way you can reconcile yourself to God. Somebody else had to do that. And so, God acts in a way that can allow you to be reconciled to Him. All you can do is allow it to happen. And some of you need to do that.

There are people who sit in this audience every Sunday who have never allowed God to reconcile you to Himself. I don't know what the reason is. I have no idea why you are resistant to that possibility. There is nothing you need to do other than allow Him to do that. Allow yourself to be reconciled. Allow Him to give you a relationship with Him. Allow Him to call you to Himself. Simply say YES to that. For some reason, I don't know what your reason is, you're choosing simply to not let that happen. So in the words of the text, let me just do this. "We beg you, be reconciled to God." There's no reason for you to go on in an unreconciled relationship with God. There's no reason for you to hold back. He says, Come to me. Let me reconcile you to Myself. I've already paid the price. I've done everything that needs to be done. Just come to me. Let your guard down. Put your fears away. Let the trust issues go, but, come.

That's what a baby in a manger was about. It was God's way of saying to you. Come to me. I'll meet you more than half way. I'll come down where you are. I'll pay the price but, Come! That's the language of all of Scripture is that God desires for us to Come! And when you come down to 2Corinthians 5:21, you recognize this text that we looked at last week. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. It's a great verb. To have the possibility of becoming. He died so that I don't have to. He became sin so that I don't have to carry my own, so that I could have the possibility of being the righteousness of God.

Back in the sixteenth century, a German wrote what has become the Heidelberg Catechism. In answer to the question about how you become righteous, this is the answer. God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness and holiness of Christ as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner. As if I had been perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me. He says come! Let the righteousness of Christ become your righteousness.

Well, Christmas not only reminds me of His love and His call, it reminds us of our commission. In this text, 2Corinthians 5:18 He has given us, He has placed upon us, the ministry of reconciliation. There are two different words for giving that are possible here. One is to kind of "give", just to hand somebody something. The other is a much more. . . .it's a stronger term that talks about committing this to someone. He has committed to us. He has placed in our hands. He has made us responsible for this ministry of reconciliation. Which He defines in the next verse as saying, "we have this message (this word) of reconciliation" that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. This word that He has given to us (the Gospel, the Good News) the thing that we celebrate about Christmas has been handed to us and He has said to us, "you have been given this responsibility to be the "Word", the message, the messenger of reconciliation. We are in this text ambassadors for Christ."

I don't know a lot about ambassadors. I've seen them on occasion. We had some here for our opening of the building. They were the Chamber of Commerce ambassadors. They stood out there and they represented the Chamber and all of the Chamber businesses in our community.

I remember as a young adult listening to the name Henry Kissinger almost to the point of nausea on the news back in those days of Vietnam. Our Ambassador. I remember the Paris Peace talks and the struggle that Henry Cabot Lodge had even getting people to the table as an Ambassador. Well, one of the difficulties, of course, was that he didn't understand Vietnamese culture. Would have made a lot of difference if they could have just figured out why a round table made more sense to somebody from Asia than a square table did. Far be it from us to try to think about things like that. But, not far be it from God who literally became one of us so that we would know He understood us and now he commands us (He commissions us, He gives us) this "Word" of reconciliation. That there is a world out there who needs to hear this message that God is in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. And we, we've been handed that message. That's our . . . . . . . . . . our world___________________or help responsible

One of the things that is unique about our congregation and one of the things that I have to confess to you that I delight in is this congregation takes that seriously and has commissioned a number of people from this church to go be ambassadors for Christ. Not only in our local community but around the world. And one of them is home, Ashleigh Leenerts who is going to share some of her experience as an ambassador.


Testimony

So what does it mean if you're going to be an ambassador. Well, it means this at least. That we represent God in a foreign culture. You're a resident alien. If you haven't figured that out, then we need to have a long chat.

One of the first songs I learned as a new Christian was at a little chorus that we sang in church camp. This World is not my own; I'm just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere, beyond the blue. This world is not your home.

In a parabolic sort of sense the Christian flag flies higher than the American flag when you believe in Jesus. Just as it must fly higher than any Russian believer's Russian flag or any Korean believer's Korean flag. If Christ is not above your culture, you are too American, or too Russian, or too Korean for your own good. We live as foreigners in this culture representing God. We speak for God. We don't speak a message of our own. We speak somebody else's message. That's what ambassadors do.

We carry a message from the head of the government on his behalf. Since you and I are Christians, the head of our government, our theocracy is God. We are here in this world, in this community, in this place; wherever God has placed us in this school or this business or this family to be the one who represents his word and carries his message to the people around us. And literally, we live among those to whom we speak. You can't be an ambassador from afar. You have to be an ambassador where you happen to be. So we live with people who don't know Jesus and we hope that in the context of them seeing us live, they see something different.

The truth of the matter is this, Christ is _______________so that God could bring reconciliation.

It's a real simple thing, this text. God is in Christ, bringing the world, reconciling the world, to Himself. There is a second truth that must become a part of who we are. It's not just that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. Christ is in you, reconciling the world to the Father.

We've been given an enormous opportunity as Christians to know Christ, to have a relationship with Christ. And we've been called and commissioned to be that agency that God uses to let the rest of the world hear about this message of reconciliation. That's what we are. We are ambassadors with a message of reconciliation. And that message is simple. You don't have to know any more than what I'm about to say right now to be Christ's ambassador to this world. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. That's all you gotta know.

At this Christmas season, when people talk to you and when you talk to people, this is the message that counts. God is in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.

We're sending you out with that message. You are ambassadors of His. You've been given this message, this ministry of reconciliation.

It's been a long time since I literally begged anybody to be a believer. Don't know why God hasn't placed me in that particular position recently. I have been there, on my knees in front of people saying, "If this is what it takes, begging you is what you need, I'll be glad to do it. If begging is what you need, I'll be glad to do it."

This Christmas season, be reconciled to God. Come to Him. Let Him work in your life.

Let's stand and sing.