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Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:18
Track 6 of 8 in the Persuasive Words: Living So Others May Know series
Running time: 30 minutes, 37 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 11, 2005

Words to Live By
Persuasive Words
Living So Others May Know

(2Corinthians 5:18)
Copyright 2005 G. Charles Sackett

I'm just strongly suspicious that there's no way that we will ever quite fully understand the significance of what our text talks about this morning. I say that because we are so far removed from the reality in which it was written. The vast majority of us have never had to live under a sacrificial system whereby the nature of our sin became so visible (well, not just visible) so sensory all the time. It was just never out of our sight or smell or sound. It was just constant.

In fact, for us to really understand the text that we're going to look at, we need to take a little journey back into the Old Testament. So if you've got Bibles or there's a pew Bible in front of you, we're going to run back to Leviticus. I would encourage you to at least follow along carefully as we look at this. If you don't have a Bible in front of you, at least listen, because I think it's important for you to understand how significant what has occurred really is.

Back in those Old Testament days, as God lead Israel and as Israel sought to be the people of God, they lived under a system whereby they were reminded constantly that they were sinners by choice, by life. So you come into this legal system whereby something had to be offered in order to atone for your sins. It was a constant ongoing reminder and there were all kinds of offerings that were created so that, that sin could somehow be atoned for, to be dealt with in a way that would allow you to live in a relationship with God that was at least somewhat reasonable.

You come to the book of Leviticus and suddenly you're thrust into this whole sacrificial system. The first one we see is in Leviticus 1, in fact, the very beginning of the book. Leviticus 1 starts with this burnt offering. The burnt offering was typically a bull or a ram if you could afford it. Otherwise it was some kind of a male bird. It was designed to help rid you of unintentional sin.

When you look at Leviticus 1:3 "If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect. So first of all, and before you can ever get anywhere in this system, you got to go through the herd and find one that looks good. In fact, you can't go through the herd and find the runt. You've got to offer the best you've got. So from the very beginning this thing just has this overtone of expense, cost, personal sacrifice.

You go through. You find a male without defect. By the way, it's a good thing we're looking for animals and not men. 'Cause we'd look a long time. That was a comment from a wife. I won't mention any names. He must present it at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting so that it will be acceptable to the Lord. He is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.

Do you notice this personal investment all of a sudden gets up another notch. You have to actually lay your hands on the beast that you've brought. You have to identify with it. You've got to acknowledge this animal represents me. And then he slaughtered it.

Now it's been a while since I've been around a slaughter house. It's not pleasant. That stuff you go get at the grocery store. You don't want to see it on the front end. It's bloody. It's gory. It's smelly. It's a mess!

And here at the front of the meeting house, you have just laid your hands on a young bull or a goat and then, you have just ripped it from here to here and blood has gushed all over everything, including you. And you've been reminded, this is the cost of sin.

So you go over a chapter or two to Leviticus 4. This is The Sin Offering.

The Lord said to Moses,"Say to the Israelites: 'When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord's commands - (and now he's going to go through a whole litany of possibilities.)

"If the anointed priest sins, . . . he brings this particular kind of offering.

Leviticus 4:13 "If the whole Israelite community sins. . . . . then it's this kind of offering.

Leviticus 4:22 "When a leader sins. . . . . it's this kind of an offering.

Leviticus 4:27 "If a member of the community sins. . . .it's this particular kind of an offering. And so it goes.

Here we come again. Sin Offering. We're here, the sin has been committed. It's an unintentional sin. You bring a young bull or a male goat or a female goat, depending on how much you could afford. It's actually prorated according to your ability to pay. And once again, you identify with this particular sin offering. You lay your hands on it. And once again it is slaughtered in front of you.

Come over another chapter. Leviticus 5 We've had a burnt offering and we've had a sin offering and we have a guilt offering. And in The Guilt Offering Leviticus 5:14 The Lord said to Moses: "When a person commits a violation and sins unintentionally. . . . . .(by the way, do you noticed one consistent thing here, so far? The sin is unintentional.) You will look in vain in the Old Testament sacrificial system to find an offering for intentional sin. God made no provision for intentional sin, only the unintentional. The assumption was that you would live your life in such a way that you would never sinned intentionally..

Well, Leviticus 5:15 "When a person commits a violation and sins unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord's holy things, he is to bring to the Lord as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver, according to the sanctuary shekel. It is a guilt offering. He must make restitution for what he has failed to do in regard to the holy things, add a fifth of the value to that and give it all to the priest, who will make atonement for him with the ram as a guilt offering, and he will be forgiven.

Not only was there going to be a ram or a bull or whatever had to be offered, but, you had to bring 20% on top of that because you were making restitution for. . . . . There was this constant reminder, sin is costly.

In fact, they took sin really seriously. I don't mean that they sinned seriously. You know, like, we're serious about this and we're going to do it. I mean, sin was just a major issue for them to deal with. And it was constant.

Come over to Numbers. Just go another book over to the book of Numbers. When you get to Numbers 29 you're gonna see, probably at the top of the page, this thing that says, The Feast of Trumpets. It's one of a number of feasts that they celebrated in Israel. You come down a little further and you get the Day of Atonement, Yom Kipper, we typically call it. It's the day, the annual day when there was a major sacrifice made for the sins of the nation where the priest was allowed to go, actually into the very holy of holies itself. You come just a little further down into Numbers 29:12 and you have the Feast of Tabernacles, the third major feast to be celebrated in Israel every year. I'll not read the entire chapter, let me just highlight a couple of things.

Start at Numbers 29:12 "On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. Celebrate a festival to the Lord for seven days. Present an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the Lord, a burnt offering of thirteen young bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. With each of the thirteen bulls prepare a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah (that's about a half bushel) of fine flour mixed with oil; with each of the two rams, two-tenths; with each of the fourteen lambs, one-tenth. Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.

That's DAY ONE!

Are you ready? I'm not going to read the chapter. It's going to sound like this. On day two, do the same thing. On day three. . . . . . and it's just a steady stream of sacrifices to the point that at the end of the week you have offered 199 animals.

Now I don't know a lot, but I know this. That's a bunch. In addition to the 199 animals that you have sacrificed, you have also sacrificed 18 bushels of grain mixed with oil.

Now I just want you to, if you can, try to put somewhere in your imagination, what that must have been like to sacrifice that many animals day-after-day-after-day. Now I don't know the answer to this question, but I'm thinking, 199 animals is a lot of blood. I mean, that's got to go somewhere. And then, I tried to figure this out. I just am not farmer enough and I didn't get any help at all. I don't know whether Wayne's in here or not. I tried to get Wayne Tallcott to help me with this. He's the only farmer I know that actually raises something that I could calculate with. He was of absolutely no help at all. I guess it's 'cause he tries to keep his animals alive.

What I wanted to know was. . . . .forgive me, I'm about to gross you out. How many guts is that? Have you thought about this? Because when they sacrificed a bull or a goat or a sheep, they gutted it. They cleaned it up. They washed it. They presented it as an offering before God. Those piles of entrails have to go somewhere. 199 animals! 71 of those were full sized bulls. I did figure this out. The average bull weighs a couple thousand pounds. Now, I'm thinkin' that means there's a little "stuff" inside. Well, I'm trying to gross you with this, okay? I'm trying to figure that there's probably somewhere between 500 and 1,000 lbs. of the innards left over.

I would think that after doing that a day or two, or a year or two in your life, you'd be tired of it. 'Cause this is just one of the feasts. This doesn't even begin to get at what's going on in Israel's life where they are constantly coming to a temple place where there's an altar and a fire and burning flesh and running blood. To be reminded again and again and again and again, sin is costly. It hurts. It destroys. And frankly, the problem was, that the sin, while it was atoned for, in some sense of the word, according to the Scriptures in the book of Hebrews it was never, really, actually, totally forgiven.

The language of Hebrews is that it was simply rolled ahead. Can you imagine 1400 years of sin rolled ahead and rolled ahead and rolled ahead until you've got this pile of sin.

Look at Hebrews 10 clear over in your New Testament. We are going to get to the text for today, by the way. I promise! But not until you've been sickened as best I know how. Now if I were a real preacher I would have brought a bull in here and we'd slaughtered it up on the stage, but since I'm not, we'll just use our imagination.

Hebrews 10:1 says this. The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming - not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Do you feel it? I mean, it just has that sense to it. Listen to it. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year. . . .

You just get this feel. You've got 1400 years of sacrifice after sacrifice, after sacrifice, after sacrifice and the awareness that it still was never enough.

Hebrews 10:2 says, If I could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Drop down a little further to Hebrews 10:8 quoting Christ. Christ said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

You can breathe a sigh of relief. You honestly can. Because if it were not for the death of Jesus, we wouldn't be meeting in a place this neat and clean. We'd be meeting someplace where there would still be a fire, and animals and blood and odor and guts.

Hebrews 10:11 says, Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.

It was done. The work was finished. It was over. So you come over to the end of Hebrews 10:17, he adds this; "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more."

And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

You don't have to keep coming with an animal, cause it's done.

NOW! We're ready for our text. 2Corinthians 5:18. If you were here last week we talked about this newness thing that God can do for you. He can make everything new. He can allow you to start all over again. 2Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, all things become new. Old things have passed away.

Listen to 2Corinthians 5:18 All this (this freedom, this newness) . . .All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; . . . . You can just put brackets around that cause we're just going to hold that for next week. . . . .gave us the ministry

Here is the description of the ministry of reconciliation. 2Corinthians 5:19 . . .that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

I really like the way the New Living Translation translates that particular text. Listen to it again. 2Corinthians 5:18-19 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.

Those are absolutely extraordinary words. Please don't miss them, especially not now. Not this season of the year. God was in Christ, that's Christmas!

That is Luke 2, that's Matthew 1, that is Christmas. God was in Christ. The incarnation is about God taking upon himself human flesh. Christmas is not about giving gifts alone. It's about the most incredible gift ever given. That God decided to take upon Himself human flesh and live in this world with us. God with us. Immanuel. He became one of us. God is in Christ reconciling the world to himself.

I don't know how . . . . I honestly don't know how to get my hands or my head or my heart around what happens here. Did you hear it. Look at it again.

2Corinthians 5:21 God made him who had no sin (Now look carefully at the next phrase, because we so often misunderstand this. We talk about it in terms as if Jesus kind of took a burden and put it on his shoulders and carried it for us. Do you see what it says? He made Him to be sin, not to carry sin but to be sin ) Jesus Christ, when he came to earth, not only took upon the burden of our sin, He became sin for us, so when you come to Easter and you're reading through the text and you see Jesus on a cross, and you wonder at this phrase, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? It's because He became sin. He didn't just carry it, He became it, for you. He became sin he says, for you. I don't know how to deal with that. I don't know how to get my hands around that. I don't know what to do with that. To try to understand what it means for God Himself to become sin; so that, I never have to offer another sacrifice. So that I never have to burn another bull. So I never have to let more blood.

This God who became flesh, dwelt among us and became sin. There's a word for that in the Bible. It's called grace. God doing for you what you could never do for yourself.

The magnitude of that is absolutely incredible to me and he goes on to say that he didn't count our sins against us.

I've been trying for a week how to help you see that. I don't know what to do. Try this on for size. Do you know that in 2004 there were 70,956 violent crimes committed? That includes things like murder, battery and rape. There were 413,929 property crimes; things like robbery and arson and car theft. A total of 484,000 crimes. By the way, that's just Illinois.

In the United States there were 1,381,259 violent crimes in 2003. There were an additional 10,435,523 property crimes in the United States. I couldn't find the world statistics and that's for one year. And that's just crime. That's not even sin. That's just crime. That's the kind of stuff you go to jail for. It has nothing to do with the attitude of the heart and the sin that we often commit. Can you imagine the pile of sins that God has chosen to just simply overlook because of Jesus? He became sin!

There's a part of me that just wants to sit down now and let you sit on that. He became sin and he reconciled us.

Did you hear it in the text? It is so absolutely incredible. God was in Christ reconciling us to himself. We're a part of the mess and in His grace He chooses to bring us back to Him. To reconcile us to himself. To recreate us in His image. To bring us back to the place that we were before we ever sinned. That is, you know, what this is all about. It's not only just a legal thing. You know what that is. Forgive me, this is one of those big Bible words, but you gotta know it. You just can't abandon vocabulary. The word is "justification" and you've got to know that in your Christian vocabulary. We have been "justified". We have been made legally right.

Here's the catch phrase from Sunday school. Okay? Just as if I'd never sinned. Justified! Just as if I'd never. . . . .He looks at you through the blood of Jesus as if you had never committed even a single sin. Can you imagine? Not even your wife can do that for you. Not on your best day. And He sanctifies you. That's another good Bible word for you. That we're in the process of becoming sanctified.

He treats us as if we didn't have sin and then through the presence of His Spirit in us, He begins to shape us and to mold us so that we actually don't have sin. And He begins to create us into the image that we came into this world in. And some of you struggle with this and I'll just say it briefly, but, this whole thing about infant baptism; just forget it. Because you came into the world without sin. You know, it's not that you don't have the consequences of some of your parents mistakes, but you came into the world without any fault, without any guilt and He's taking you back to that place where you live as one who doesn't sin. He's not rebuilding you, He's restoring you.

I have a friend in Indiana who restores Corvettes. I couldn't afford to even think about that, but I learned something from him I didn't know. Steve would know this. This is news to me. When you rebuild a car you simply kind of bring it back into good shape but if you restore a car you got to get the original parts and put it back like it was. I didn't know that on Corvettes, all the parts are numbered. You can actually find them.

God is not rebuilding you. He's restoring you. He's taking you from where you are to where you were. He's putting you in a position where you can come into His presence.

See, this idea of reconciliation is such a profound thing and it's so strong in this particular text. Of the ten times that Paul uses this word for reconciled, five of them occur in this particular text. He's in the process of reconciling us. He's bringing us back. Do you notice His initiative? He's bringing. . . . . . . . END OF SIDE ONE. . .

Him. And do you notice something, He's not doing any moving. We're the ones doing the moving. He's reconciling us to Himself.

Now I readily admit. . . . I'll even admit it second service when my wife is in here. When reconciliation has to occur at our house, I have to do most of the moving. But I don't have to do it all. When reconciliation occurs in this house, we do all the moving 'cause God has never failed.

You see, the beauty is, He pulls us to Himself. He draws us to Himself. He calls us to Himself. He reconciles us to Himself. And in that we are justified and we are sanctified.

This is undoubtedly the greatest story ever told. You can be in a right relationship with God and you don't have to do anything. You can't do anything for by grace are you saved. Not of works. This is not something you do. This is something that God has done. You can't offer enough sacrifices. You can't slaughter enough bulls. You can't shed enough blood. You can't do enough to ever take care of your sin. And that's okay 'cause He's already done it. He who knew no sin became sin for you so He could reconcile you to Himself.

There are two ways to come to God. At least that's what I see in Scripture when I read my Bible. I read about the Publican and the Pharisee who came to God. And the Pharisee came and he stood before the altar of God and he looked up and he said, "Man, I am so glad I'm not like you - Sinners! I belong here." And the Publican came and the text says he "wouldn't even lift up his eyes and he said to God. I don't belong here, but I want to come." And Jesus said, "Do you know which one of those two went away justified?" It's the one who comes in their own broken-ness knowing that they can't do it themselves and letting God do what only God can do and that's reconcile us to Him.

Let me offend you. You're a mess, and there's not a thing you can do to fix it. But in Christ, God will see you as if you had never, ever messed up your life, even once. If you want that, He offers it to you. He says, Come to me. Just come to me. Let me work in your life. Listen to me and let me change you. Come and be reconciled to me. Come back to me. I want you. That's what this Season is about. It's about people like you and me, who have no right to be in the presence of God, who are given free passage to come, by the death of His Son and we celebrate it.

Let's stand together and sing.