There’s something incredibly attractive about being able to make a FRESH START. Getting behind the wheel of a brand new car. The clock reads zero km’s, it’s got that new car smell. There’s no scratches, or dents or leaks or smells. You’ve put the old BEHIND you. And you’re making a fresh start.
Andrew Branson’s bought himself a new bike. After 15 years of maintaining and repairing the old one. And the NEW one’s quick and smooth and light and fast. And the OLD one’s gathering dust.
Or what about a fresh start in LIFE. Perhaps you’re coming to the end of ONE chapter of your life. And just about to begin a NEW one. Rod’s finishing school soon. And he’s off to Tasmania, then WHO-KNOWS-WHERE after that. That’s pretty exciting.
Maybe it’s a CAREER change. Grant spent years in Real Estate, but he’d had enough. Now he’s in insurance.
Or a SEA change. Leaving the big smoke for a slower lifestyle.
A FRESH START. It’s the chance to go back to the beginning. With a clean slate. And build something new and fresh from the ground up. No suffering the consequences of past mistakes. No on-going conflicts or struggles that keep coming back to slow you down.
There’s lots of people that get to a certain age. And wish they could make a whole fresh start with LIFE. It’s the classic mid-life crisis. They take a look back over their life. And they regret some decisions, and choices. Some missed opportunities. And they’ve ended up a long way from where they THOUGHT they’d be. And what they want is A FRESH START.
Do you ever wonder wish you could get a fresh start in your RELATIONSHIPS? Perhaps things started off well, but then there were a whole series of misunderstandings. Hasty decisions. Thoughtless words. Hurt feelings.
And after a while, a close warm friendship becomes distant and cold. Resentment and mistrust builds and builds until you can hardly say ANYTHING without the other person interpreting it BADLY. The sad thing is lots of marriages look like that.
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get a fresh start in A MARRIAGE?
Lots of people THINK you can/ by just finding someone DIFFERENT. Get a divorce and start again. But often exactly the same problems start appearing a few years down the track in the NEW marriage. Because it’s still the same person making the same mistakes.
Is a fresh start really possible?
The great news from this passage is that, YES, a fresh start is possible. God makes you an offer to START AGAIN. For REAL. Have a look there in v17. Right in the middle of the section.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is A NEW CREATION; THE OLD HAS GONE, THE NEW HAS COME!
But it’s not a new car, or a new job, or a new address. Although THIS fresh start may have a big influence on YOUR MARRIAGE.
No – the NEW we’re talking about. Is a new relationship with God. A RESTORED relationship. A change from enemies to allies. From strangers to friends. And the big word he uses is RECONCILIATION. There in the very next verse. 18.
18 All this is from God, who RECONCILED US TO HIMSELF through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
Reconciliation’s about saying sorry. About mending fences. It’s about FORGIVENESS.
And the incredible thing about the reconciliation between us and God. The fresh start. Is that GOD is the one doing the fence mending. Notice what it says there? “All this is FROM GOD who reconciled us to himself”.
Normally it’s up to the person who’s IN THE WRONG to make the first move. Here’s the way WE think. If the person who’s broken the relationship can eat enough humble pie. And is SORRY ENOUGH. Make the first move. And come crawling back, then we MIGHT forgive them.
But here it’s GOD who makes the first move. WE’RE the ones who’ve wandered away. WE’RE the ones who thumb our noses at him. Who live with a blatant disregard of what God thinks. Which is another way of saying we’re SINNERS. And yet, DESPITE THAT, it’s GOD who bridges the gap. GOD, who offers us a FRESH START. A way BACK to him.
It’s an incredible offer. And one we’re going to look at in a bit more detail. Under three headings. The MESSAGE. The MESSENGER. And finally, the MOTIVATION.
1. The message
First, the MESSAGE. Pick it up from v14. Paul’s talking about himself and the other apostles. Those delivering God’s message to people everywhere. And he says this.
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that ONE DIED FOR ALL, and therefore all died.
We’ll come back to the FIRST part of the verse later. But the key to the message is there at the END. “We are convinced that ONE DIED FOR ALL”.
He’s talking about Jesus. And his . And the point he’s making is that there’s been A SUBSTITUTION. ONE person dying IN PLACE OF many.
There’s a barrier between us and God. A gap. A breakdown in relationships. We haven’t wanted anything to do with God. We’ve lived as if he’s not even there. Which is the ESSENCE of sin. And God’s just judgment for that/ is to give us what we want. Eternal separation from him.
Which is a TERRIBLE prospect.
But rather than leave us where we DESERVE, God bridges the gap himself. Reconciles us. Turns us from enemies into friends. He sent Jesus who willingly gave himself as a sacrifice. In obedience to his Father. To take the punishment we deserved.
That’s what it means that ONE died FOR ALL.
We’ve seen something a little bit like it in Afghanistan on Saturday. Australian soldiers came across a roadside during a major operation against Taliban fighters. Highly dangerous. So they called in Sergeant Michael Lyddiard, a disposal specialist. He made sure the area was evacuated. Then began to disarm it. Risking his life to save others.
But the suddenly exploded.
He was seriously wounded. Apparently losing an eye and a leg. But by clearing the area, everyone else was saved. He bore the brunt of the explosion. TOOK ITS DESTRUCTIVE FORCE ON HIMSELF. SO THAT OTHERS WOULD LIVE.
In the same way Jesus died in our place. To take the destructive force of God’s wrath on himself. So that we might be saved its effects.
You can see how that action worked from GOD’S end a few verses down. Down in v19.
God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, NOT COUNTING MEN’S SINS AGAINST THEM.
In other words, we’ve been ACQUITTED. Because Jesus died the he didn’t deserve, God pronounces an verdict against THOSE who don’t deserve it. He doesn’t OVERLOOK the offence. But the / is punished as GUILTY, and the GUILTY/ declared .
And so God’s justice is satisfied.
And again, down in v21,
21 God made HIM WHO HAD NO SIN to be SIN FOR US, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
That’s the substitution! And the result is that we can receive God’s righteous verdict. Acquitted. Declared before God.
A gift, freely offered to everyone.
But just like ANY gift. It’s got to be RECEIVED.
Christmas is coming up soon. Just over 6 weeks. Imagine someone gave you a wonderful gift. There it was all wrapped up under the tree. You were so excited! But Christmas came and went. And it stayed there under the tree. And every day you just looked at it, smiled, and walked away.
That’s CRAZY behaviour! You’ve been given the gift. You need to ACCEPT it. TAKE it. UNWRAP it.
Which is just what Paul’s message is. God’s OFFERING us the wonderful gift of reconciliation. Friendship. And a fresh start. Look at v20. The second half.
20 … We implore you on Christ’s behalf: BE RECONCILED TO GOD.
The offer’s being made. You need to ACCEPT it. It’s not an automatic credit. Like a bank transfer. You’ve got to CLAIM the fresh start. Paul pleads with people BE RECONCILED to GOD. Accept the gift. Recognise you’ve ignored God. Turn back to him in repentance. Accept the sacrifice of Jesus on your behalf. Live with Jesus as your king.
THAT’S what it means to be reconciled to God.
And when you DO that. That’s when the fresh start begins. The first day of the rest of your life. V17 – we read it earlier – says
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
A new standing before God. A new heart. A new orientation. A new direction. A new motivation. A new future. And a new ability to actually live pleasing God.
They’re all the things that come with a fresh start.
The day you accept the offer really IS the first day of the rest of your life. It’s why the Bible talks about it as being BORN AGAIN.
And it’s never too late. There’s no such thing as a case too hard for God. EVERYONE is offered the fresh start. EVERYONE is offered forgiveness. And all you’ve got to do is TAKE it.
BE RECONCILED TO GOD.
It’s as simple as talking to God. Saying something like. “Thanks God for your offer of a fresh start. Forgive me for living as if you’re not there – for ignoring you. Thank you for Jesus’ in my place. Help me to live with him as my king.”
The second point in the outline is to do with THE MESSENGER. Paul’s the one in view here. But what he says about himself is no different from what’s expected of ALL CHRISTIANS. Because God’s preferred method of delivering his message – his offer of a fresh start – is through ONE person telling OTHER people.
There in v18.
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and GAVE US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION:
Ministry sounds like a fancy word just for professionals. But it’s actually just the word for SERVANT. God gave ordinary people the job of being a SERVANT. Offering his message of reconciliation to OTHERS.
V20 gives it a different title.
20 We are therefore Christ’s AMBASSADORS, as though God were making his appeal through us.
An ambassador’s an officially-appointed representative. That’s what Christians are –God’s official spokesmen and women. “As though God were making his appeal through us!” That’s a heavy responsibility. Many people’s only experience of what GOD is like/ is by looking at YOU. By listening to YOU!
What sort of ambassador are you?
The same word that’s used of Christ standing in OUR place. Is used of US standing in Christ’s place.
“One died FOR all (that’s v14 and 15). And in v21, God made him who had no sin to be sin FOR us”. That’s Jesus standing in our place.
But then v20 says this. We are ambassadors FOR Christ. (Our versions don’t have the word FOR). As though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you ON CHRIST’S BEHALF (it’s same word again) – be reconciled to God.
Christ has stood up for us. Our job is to be standing up for him.
The THIRD description Paul uses of the messenger is that of God’s FELLOW-WORKER. There in Ch 6:1.
6:1 As God’s FELLOW WORKERS we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain.
Just stop for a moment, and THINK about that. Working alongside the God of all the Universe! God’s CO-WORKER! How WEIRD that an infinitely powerful God would choose to use people LIKE US to work WITH him.
God makes his appeal THROUGH us. We implore people ON Christ’s BEHALF.
It’s a great comfort – that all of the resources of heaven are backing us. God’s Spirit guiding us, giving us courage. Giving us the words to say. Opening the eyes of people we talk to, helping them understand.
But it’s also a great CHALLENGE. That God wants to work WITH you and THROUGH you and ALONGSIDE you. But to DO that, you need to start WORKING. To pick up the tools. To take your light from under your bushel. To open your mouth. To break down barriers. To build bridges. To mend fences.
To take the great news of God’s FRESH START to people who NEED ONE.
Do you recognise the WEIGHT of that responsibility? You may be the only Christian some of your friends and acquaintances WILL EVER KNOW!
How well are you DOING at that? Individually? How well are we doing that as a church? How can we be doing that better?
It’s one of our CORE VALUES, did you know? (I wonder if you can say it?) We value non-Christians … hearing and responding … to the Gospel (both … here and around the world).
And if we DO value it, we should be able to TELL in the WAY WE DO THINGS. In our priorities. The things we DO, and the things we DON’T do. The things we TALK about. The things we choose to spend money on.
As your kids watch you – and they DO – can they TELL that you VALUE people being reconciled to God? Is it TRANSPARENTLY OBVIOUS in your life? Is it obvious in the things you PRAY about as a family? Is it obvious in things you DON’T do because they’re not as important?
Are you sending the message/ to those who know you best / that people becoming friends with Jesus is one of the major motivations of your life?
Which is the third section in the outline.
You can see PAUL’S motivation in the way he describes his work. V20. We IMPLORE you on Christ’s behalf. It’s a strong word. We PLEAD with you. Or Ch 6 v 1 – we URGE you not to receive God’s grace in vain.
I was watching SURF RESCUE on telly this week. About surf life savers on the Gold Coast. One THIS day, the swell was huge. There were rips on both sides of the flags. And overseas tourists were just playing around in the water, unsuspectingly. Then getting dragged out to sea by the rip. And before they knew it their lives were in danger.
They didn’t realise it. But the lifesavers could see exactly what the surf was doing. What the danger was. And they were PLEADING with the people. URGING them. Stay between the flags. Get out of the here. They were blowing whistles. Waving arms. Helping people out of the water.
As a minister – a servant – of reconciliation Paul IMPLORES people on Christ’s behalf. BE RECONCILED TO GOD. As Christ’s ambassador, he PLEADS with people GET RIGHT with God.
But the CLEAREST indication of Paul’s motivation comes from v14. We’re going to finish on that verse. So have a look at it with me.
14 For Christ’s love COMPELS us, because we are convinced that one died for all...
Paul’s driving motivation was the unshakeable confidence that Jesus had died FOR HIM. Taken his place. Died HIS . Simply out of LOVE.
And so his whole life was DRIVEN by the desire to see OTHERS rescued. From the moment he was converted. The instant he’d received his fresh start, he wanted OTHERS to get that same chance.
He was COMPELLED by Christ’s love.
James Johnson was on board the ship Dunbar when it tried to enter Sydney Harbour in 1857. But, in the fierce storm, the captain mis-judged his approach. By the time he saw the sheer cliffs of South Head looming out of the mist, it was too late. The ship smashed against the rocks. Absolute tragedy – 121 people on board died.
But James was the one person who survived. He was plucked from this little ledge in the cliff he was clinging to.
But that experience MOTIVATED James Johnson to be the first lighthouse keeper for the lighthouse that was eventually built on that spot.
He was a man who knew the danger. But he also new the WONDER of being saved. He was filled with gratitude for having life. And so he was motivated to want to save others as well.
If you have known the wonder of a fresh start. The delight of experiencing Christ’s love and God’s forgiveness. If you’re CONVINCED of the reality of being God’s friend.
Then let that motivate you, energise you, to implore people on Christ’s behalf… be reconciled to God.