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Our Feaful Responsibility
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:11
Track 1 of 8 in the Persuasive Words: Living So Others May Know series
Running time: 37 minutes, 09 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 6, 2005

"Our Fearful Responsibility"
Words to Live By
"Persuasive Words - Living So Others May Know"
(2Corinthians 5:11)
Copyright 2005 G. Charles Sackett

You may have seen the report this week about the e-mail interaction of the former FEMA Director. You may have had some of the same thoughts I did at that moment. There are some things you wish you'd never put in print. I just thought I would read a brief excerpt from the report that came from the Louisiana congressman who was looking into FEMA's actions. And this, by the way, is not a political statement at all. It's merely to set up what I want to say later. But here it is.

"In the midst of the overwhelming damage caused by the hurricane and enormous problems faced by FEMA, Mr. Brown found time to exchange e-mails about superfluous topics, "including" problems finding a dog-sitter."

The congressman said that on August 26, just days before Katrina made landfall, Brown e-mailed his press secretary about his attire, asking: "Tie or not for tonight? Button-down blue shirt?"

A few days later, Worthy advised Brown: "Please roll up the sleeves of your shirt, all shirts. Even the president rolled his sleeves to just below the elbow. In this crisis and on TV you just need to look more hard-working."

On August 29, the day of the storm, Brown exchanged e-mails about his attire with Taylor. She told him, "You look fabulous," and Brown replied, "I got it at Nordstroms. . . . . .Are you proud of me?"

It kind of makes you wonder where the guy's mind was. That's all I would want to ask, is, where in the world was his head in the middle of all that damage potential.

Of course that lead me to some other things that I got to looking at. Actually this came across as a true report coming out of the sinking of the Titanic.

One of the ladies was already in her life boat. Was preparing to launch when she said, "You have to wait, I have to go get something out of my state room." And so they said, "You have three minutes." So she made her way across the listing ship. She passed through the cassino where there was literally thousands of dollars laying around on the floor. She made it to her state room, looked inside the room, went right past her jewelry collection in order to pick up three oranges. Came back to her life boat and sailed away.

It's amazing how your perspective changes isn't it? Depending on the crisis situation you happen to be in. I think I have mentioned this before. I had always planned all the things I would ever take out of my house if it caught on fire. You know, you have this mental image of all the stuff that's really important, that you want to grab as you go out the door. Well, I remember the night that the house caught on fire. We grabbed our children, my wife, and we left. All that other stuff just didn't seem to be all that important right at that particular moment.

It's amazing to me how life changes when you see things just a little different under a little different kind of crisis. The urgency of the hour forces you to recognize what really matters.

We're about to make a move into a text in 2Corinthians 5. We're going to be here for the next several weeks. I'm inviting you to being your Bible. Look at the passage. Get familiar with it 'cause we're going to come back to it again and again and again. It is, I think, the appropriate follow-up to having spent forty days focusing upon our own discipleship; focusing upon our understanding of what God desires for us to do in the world. And it has a great deal to do with having a different perspective on the way we view things. This morning we're just going to pick up the very first part of that text. 2Corinthians 5:11 Try to place it in a bit of a context.

2Corinthians 5:11 I want to read it from a couple of different versions and then when I'm done reading, there is something I would like you to watch before we move on.

2Corinthians 5:11 says, 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. (Please pay particular note to one little phrase there that sets up what's happening here. He says in 2Corinthians 5:11) Since, then, (Sometimes that's translated Therefore or Because of, Since, then, what? What forced us? What caused us to recognize this fear of the Lord? Well, back up one verse and look at 2Corinthians 5:10) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

The context of 2Corinthians 5 is, that there is a judgment coming and we're all going to face it. Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord.

The New Living Translation says it this way in 2Corinthians 5:11 Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this too.

In that light, take a look. VIDEO (Man in the Street Clip)

There is something we know that apparently other people don't. The truth of the matter is, there is a judgment. That's what 2Corinthians 5:10 is all about. There will be a time when each of us will stand before God and give an account for who we are. What we've done, how we've lived, and whether or not we have responded to Jesus Christ; just two or three texts that inform that piece of information, things just to be reminded of . I don't suspect that this is new information to any of you.

Romans 14:9-12 Paul says to the Romans, For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat. It is written:

" 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,

'every knee will bow before me;

'every tongue will confess to God.' "

So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.

If you come over to Hebrews 4 you get a similar kind of statement; just a reminder that there is a time when all of us will face God.

Hebrews 4:13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Or a bit further in your Bible to 1Peter 4:1 Peter writes this in 1Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do - living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.

There is a judgment not withstanding, what some of our arm chair theologians might try to tell us.

Here's a statement from Bruce Willis. I'm quite sure he qualifies as an arm chair theologian at best.

"Organized religion used to hang the whole thing on one hook. If you don't do these things, if you don't act morally, you're going to burn in hell. Unfortunately, with what we know about science, anyone who thinks who thinks at all probably doesn't believe in fire and brimstone anymore."

Well, I'm sure that not believing in it will change everything. Don't you? Like not believing in gravity will keep you from sticking to the earth. You're all still here. Not believing in something doesn't change the truth of the matter. The truth of the matter is, there is a judgment, in which we will all, at some point, have to give an account for who we are. It's even been turned into humor. Humor, I think, tries to help us take the edge off of important topics. And so, there was a Seinfeld issue in which there was an exchange between Elaine and one of her boyfriend's.

Elaine says to her boyfriend, "Do you believe in God?"

"Yes," her boyfriend replies.

Elaine says, "Is it a problem that I'm not religious?"

"Not for me," her boyfriend answers.

"How's that?" she says.

Her boyfriend responds, "I'm not the one going to hell."

You know the interesting thing about all of this "stuff" about judgment is that it's easy to ignore. It's out there in the future somewhere. You don't have to deal with it. It's not a problem today, tomorrow. We don't wrestle with it. We don't worry about it. We don't look in the mirror and think about it. It's something out there, sometime, some day and if you're like the folks on the man in the street clip; you don't know, you don't care, you've never thought about it. You've got an idea. The truth of the matter is, if you don't know Jesus, you're in trouble. I hope that's not too blunt for any of you, but it is just the nature of the case. And, I don't know how to say it any other way than just try to parrot back to you some of the things that Scripture says. If you don't have a living relationship with Jesus, you're going to be in trouble.

John 3. In this great chapter from which we get, probably the most commonly known verse of Scripture. John 3:16 "For God so loved the world. . . . . If you come down just a bit further to the end of the chapter. As Jesus ends this conversation John says in John 3:36 "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

Romans 2 as Paul writes in the heart of these first three chapters which are all about the fact that the whole world is guilty of sin, he says in Romans 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God "will give to each person according to what he has done." To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favoritism.

And then toward the middle of your New Testament, 2Thessalonians 1 as Paul writes to this rather remarkable church in the city of Thessalonica. He says in 2Thessalonians 1:5 All this is evidence that God's judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. This includes you, because you believed our testimony to you.

I tell you all of that because it's such an unusual thing in Scripture to think about the way that judgment is used. Because if I don't miss my guess, most of you are thinking I'm about to say, "You ought to get your life right." That's not what I'm going to say. 'Cause that's not how the New Testament uses judgment.

The New Testament rarely, if ever, paints a picture of the fact that we're going to stand before God, we're going to be judged ultimately for our decisions and then says, "By the way, you need to get your act straightened out." 'Cause that's just not what's true. What's true is what happens in this text. 2Corinthians 5:10 We are all going to stand before God and give an account. 2Corinthians 5:11 . . .knowing the fear of the Lord therefore, (remember what it said?) We persuade men.

Judgment is never aimed at people who don't know Jesus, to try to convince them to get to know Jesus. That's just not how it's done. You don't get to know Jesus out of fear. You don't try to find a relationship with Christ so that you can avoid Hell. A relationship with Christ comes because you have recognized the enormous love that God has for you and have then, in some way responded to that positively because you appreciate so much the death of Jesus on the Cross for you.

Judgment is used to remind you that there are people in your family, people at your work, people in your ball team, who don't yet know Jesus and they face God without the hope that you have. And because you understand that, because you're aware of that, because you know that, he says, We persuade men.

It's not just that we know something others don't, we do something others won't. We'll go out of our way to try to help people avoid judgment. We do whatever we have to in order to make it possible for people to know and to understand who Jesus is.

You come to this context in 2Thessolonians 1, the one we just read. You read down through all of this judgment language and how harsh it's going to be for those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. 2Thessolonians 1:11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you. . . . . because we understand, because we know that all people are going to see God at one point, whether they like to believe they're going to or not. We're going to do everything in our power to try to help them be ready for that moment.

Our Vision Statement is whatever it takes to reach those who don't know Jesus. - to love and reach the lost -

But, that's a word you can't use anymore, of course. And so I say it advisedly because some of you I'm sure, have not yet made a decision about the Lord and you're not even sure you're lost. And that sounds so cruel and so judgmental.

I'm sorry. Without Jesus, you're lost. It would not be kind of me to tell you otherwise. To tell you that everything is okay, when it's not.

I've heard this story on numerous occasions. What I do know about the story that is true is that Charles Peace was among the more notorious criminals in England. He was sent to the gallows in July of 1854. That I know. I've been able to find that much out. Whether the rest of this actually happened or not, I'm not certain. But it's been told as true on several occasions. Great Britain being Anglican they had a ceremony for everything, including, for someone going to the gallows. And so the Anglican priest showed up on the day of Charles Peace's hanging and performed the rite that accompanied going to the gallows.

As a part of that particular statement that was to be made. This is what was read from the prayer book. "Those who die without Christ experience hell, which is the pain of forever dying without the release which death itself can bring."

As the story goes, Charles Peace stopped in his tracks, turned to the priest, and shouted at him, "Do you believe that? Do you really believe that?"

Caught a bit off guard, the priest managed to stammer out, "Well, ah. . ah. . I. . .suppose I do." To which Peace responded, or was at least reported to have responded. "Well, I don't, but if I did, I'd get down on my hands and knees and crawl all over Great Britain, even if it were covered with broken glass, if I could rescue one person from what you just told me."

True story or not, that is the point. That is the way judgment is used in the New Testament. To help us become aware that there are people out there that we deeply love and care about, that we would do anything, whatever it takes, to help them come to understand what it means to know Jesus. That we would be driven by that.

In fact, later in this text, we will come back to this topic again in Verse 20. Paul says,

"Therefore we beg you. . . ." Be reconciled to God. That word sounds exactly like what it means. "We beg you." It's the word that would be used for a common beggar on the side of the street in Jerusalem, sitting in the dust begging. It means to be as low as you can be; to grovel as much as you have to grovel in order to convince someone of something.

So I find myself asking, not about you, but about me. Why is it I have such a hard time engaging people in conversations about their salvation? Is it because I am more concerned about my self-respect or my self-image than I am about their salvation?

Why is it that sometimes we want to protect our reputation more than we want to protect them? How is it that sometimes even property can take preference over people?

So what do we do? At a very practical level, what do we do?

Can I offer to you three suggestions you've heard me make on multiple occasions, but let me remind you of them this morning? Exactly what Paul did, begin to pray for those people. I don't know who you're thinking of right now that needs to know Jesus but if you're not thinking of somebody, that in itself may be a problem. In which case, I would say the same thing. Then pray, pray that God will open your eyes to someone who doesn't know the Lord. That they will begin to burden your heart so that you will think about them. But begin to pray, consistently pray. Devote yourself, Paul says in Colossians 4 Devote yourself to prayer. It's the language of praying in such a way that you absolutely refuse to give up. It's the prayer of Mr. & Mrs. Reinnerd (SP??), who after twelve years finally learned that their praying for me, by name, every day of their life for twelve years had finally been answered because I'd become a Christian. Pray!

And then live your life in such a way that you're not a distraction from the Gospel. That's part of the frustration is that often I find myself looking in the mirror and thinking if I tried to talk to somebody about the Lord, what would they pick out of my life that they would say, "well, if you're a Christian, then why do I need to worry about it?"

I wrestle with something so simple and I'm almost even afraid to mention it because you might not have figured it out yet. My license plate is MPCC 2. So now you know, when you see that little champagne colored Toyota driving down the road with that license plate, it's probably me. And the question is, is my driving distracting people from the Gospel? And usually the answer to that would be, probably.

What is there about us that doesn't seem to care?

The third thing that Paul says in Colossians 4 is that, then you have to talk. If you have prayed and God has opened a door and you have lived and it hasn't been distracting, then you begin to speak because hearing comes from a word about Christ and people can't know about Jesus if somebody doesn't say something about Him. It isn't enough to be just a good neighbor. You've got to be a good neighbor who talks about Jesus. You can't be just a good employer or employee. There's got to be a connection to your faith.

What this text reminds us of is there is something we know that other people don't, and that is that everybody is going to face the judge. There is something that we do that other people won't. We'll talk about it. We'll do whatever it takes in order to help them come to understand.

This text lastly identifies that we care about something others might not. And that is that our motives matter. Paul says at the end of 2Corinthians 5:11 you know how. . . . . . . . .you know what our motive was. I hope it's clear that Madison Park Christian Church's emphasis upon helping people come to know Jesus is done out of right motive. I know what the accusations are. I've heard the accusations. You're only interested in numbers. Nonsense! I'm not only interested in numbers. I'm interested in the numbers that they represent, the people that are involved.

I just happened to look over here and the Lyons are sitting here. Everybody knows they have a "gazillion" boys. Well, it's not a "gazillion". It just feels like a "gazillion" sometimes. Do you count noses when you get home? Make sure there's five, not seven? 'Cause that means somebody else came. Not four, 'cause one. . . . are you gonna accuse them of only caring about numbers? Because they count their kids when they get home to make sure they got 'um all?

Well, of course not. You'd think they were mean and cruel parents if they didn't count noses once in awhile. Of course, we're concerned about the number of people who come. Because every other person who comes, be it they are a number or not, represent a person who has come to find out about Jesus. So of course it matters.

Some people question our motives. We actually have been accused of status seeking in our community. Between you and me and the gate post, I'm not overly concerned about what the rest of the community thinks about us. What I care about is that we are making the right impression in the community. That they see us as a congregation who cares about people; who gives literally thousands and thousands of dollars in benevolence every year. Who provided 76 backpacks and would do more if we needed to. Who has a counseling service for anybody who needs it. Who would provide for any family, anything they needed. All they gotta do is ask. Who, when people do come for benevolence, don't just treat them as an object and say, here's a gas card, but would help them by putting them into a program under our guidance to teach them how to manage their money better, how to get along better, how to use the resources of the system to their advantage.

I would suggest that I would care less if you like us, don't like us. Just understand, we're here because we care about people. And we want to make a difference.

Some people have accused us of being competitive. Please hear this. We are competitive. We are in the competition of our life. But it isn't the competition of which we've been accused. 'Cause see, we've been accused of stealing people from other churches. We're not trying to get people from other churches to come here. Other churches are not our competition. But we are in steep competition with one other person who would do everything in his power to destroy your life and your families in this community and we will compete with him if we have to drop dead trying. Paul was concerned about people understanding his motives and what he could say was only what he could say. Our motives are pure. We're doing the best we can to honor Jesus and introduce people to Christ. And I would say the same thing about us.

Somehow, one of the things that we have to deal with is peoples misunderstanding about the importance of this thing. I don't know whether we need to deal with it with ourselves, as much as we need to deal with it with the community. But, there is this mis-perception out here in American culture that has to be addressed and the only people who can address it are sitting in a room just like this, this morning. 'Cause we're the only ones who understand it.

It was probably stated as well as it's been stated in a USA Today article back in the year 2000 by none other than Ted Turner. Some of you will recognize his name as the CEO of Time Warner. He's the country's largest land owner. He is the owner of CNN and TBS. He owns the Atlanta Braves. He won the America's Cup back in 1977. In the article it says, the article writer says, "Behind his entrepreneurial spirit lies a much higher, and deeper, social agenda. To his core, Turner believes in anything that promotes peace, harmony, understanding, and brotherhood."

Then in his own words, this is Turner's explanation of his motive: "I'm not looking for any big rewards. I'm not a religious person. I believe this life is all we have. I'm not doing what I'm doing to be rewarded in heaven or punished in hell. I'm doing it because I feel it's the right thing to do. Almost every religion talks about a savior coming. When you look in the mirror in the morning, when you're putting on your lipstick or shaving, you're looking at the savior. Nobody else is going to save you but yourself."

There could not be a more devastating lie in our culture than that one. Because it sounds as if you reject his thinking, you're rejecting doing good. We're not talking about rejecting doing good. Of course you ought to do good. Of course you ought to make a contribution and of course you should do everything you can to improve the world in which you live.

But you are not (I'm sorry if this offends you!) YOU ARE NOT THE SAVIOR!

There is no other name given among men whereby we must be saved than the name . . Jesus. And our job, because we know that, is to persuade men. Our calling, because we have come to understand who Jesus is, is to make sure that the people around us have no excuse for not knowing who Jesus is.

So if you are already a believer, I hope that what happens over the next several weeks is that you are driven more and more to look outside these windows at the thousands of people of our community and from there to the millions of people in our world who do not know Jesus and you will never see them the same.

And if you don't know Jesus, I hope you'll keep listening. I am absolutely convinced that if you hang around Jesus long enough, He'll get ya. I don't mean that badly. I just mean, if you listen long enough, if you pay attention long enough, if you stay with Jesus long enough, you will not be able to ignore His incredible grace and mercy and love for you. You'll see it. It will come alive. And you won't know what else to do except to just surrender yourself to Him because there is no reasonable alternative.

And of course, that's what we invite you to every week. Is to surrender yourself to Christ. If you haven't done that; if you've never acknowledged that Jesus is, in fact the Son of God, the Lord of the Universe; if you've never identified with Him by being buried in water so that you can experience contact with His blood and enter in to engage in a relationship with Him, then of course, we encourage you to come. You don't see people come down, what they used to call the sawdust trail, much in this building 'cause most of what we do happens in the middle of the week. But, you know, don't sit there for cryin' out loud, if today's the day you need to make a decision, then get up and make it. There's not a better time than now and there's not a friendlier place to make it than here because we'll applaud it.

If you don't know Jesus, of course we want you to come, to surrender yourself and if that means I'll surrender myself only enough to come back one more week and listen again, then that's good - that's great! We'll take it.

But if you know Jesus. If He's already your personal Savior, then I'm encouraging you to surrender yourself in such a way that you'll begin to really care about the people around you. Begin to make a difference. You may, just one second. You'll be fine.

Testimony of Mary Mims.

There's a world that needs to hear that story of His grace and His faithfulness to us.

We're going to stand and sing.