It’s a brand new year. I’m a goal-setting kind of person. In the past I’ve set goals for various aspects of my life: family goals, spiritual goals, fitness goals, and work goals just to name a few. I’ve been thinking about 2016 for some time now and praying about what kind of goals I would set for the upcoming year. Studies have shown over and over again that most people ditch their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January. There are all kinds of reasons why this is so, but just a couple worth pointing out are: We make too many resolutions to change too many things in our life. Another reason is that we are not committed to the changes we desire to see made.
I’m like everyone else. I set goals, but most of the goals I set at the beginning of the year are not even on my radar half way through the year. So, I’ve been thinking during the past couple of weeks about the goals I want to set for the new year. The more I thought the more I focused on this one thought: “What is the one thing I want more than anything else? If I could see only one thing come to fruition what would it be?” I can answer that question without hesitation: “I want to walk with God.” I want to walk with God. I’ve made some notes about what that might look like, what I need to do, and what I need to avoid in the upcoming year to see that happen.
I want to walk with God. I know what happened to Adam and Eve when they let the voice of the Enemy drown out the voice of God and bit off more than they could chew.
I want to walk with God. I know what happened to Abraham and Sarah when they became impatient with God and provided their own solutions to what they saw as their predicament.
I want to walk with God. I know what happened to Jonah when he found God’s way unacceptable and walked in the opposite direction.
I want to walk with God. I know what happened to David when he took his eyes off of God and looked to Bathsheba to bring him satisfaction.
I want to walk with God. I know what happened to Jeremiah when the opposition of others clouded the affirmation of the Father and he lashed out at God.
I want to walk with God. I know what happened to Nebuchadnezzar when he started reading his press clippings and dismissed God’s warnings.
I want to walk with God. I know what happened to Simon Peter when the ridicule and scorn of being a follower of Jesus led him to walk away and say, “I never knew Him!”
I want to walk with God. I know what happened to the Prodigal Son when he got bored with God’s plan for his life and sought excitement rather than God.
I want to walk with God. I know what happened to Judas when he thought his way was better than God’s way, only to find out that his way led to death and destruction.
I want to walk with God. I know what happened to the Pharisees when they trusted in their religion rather than trusting in God.
I want to walk with God. I want to walk like the boy who offered his five loaves and two small fish to Jesus, who in turn fed more than five thousand hungry souls with nothing more than what the boy had to give.
I want to walk with God. I want to walk like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who loved God more than they feared the fiery furnace.
I want to walk with God. I want to walk like Daniel whose walk with God was so strong that his enemies could find no corruption or immorality to use against him.
I want to walk with God. I want to walk like the woman at the well whose spotted past was well known by everyone, but yet she told her whole city how Jesus had changed her life.
I want to walk with God. I want to walk like Saul, who once his eyes were opened to the truth of God never walked the same way again, but spent the rest of his life as Paul, the messenger of the grace of God.
I want to walk with God. I want to walk like Aquilla who had no advantages in the culture of her day, but she didn’t have time to lobby for her rights because she was too busy teaching young believers the great truths of God.
I want to walk with God. No matter where He leads me, I want to walk with God. No matter how rough the road becomes, I want to walk with God. No matter what it will cost me, I want to walk with God. Even though my friends forsake me, I want to walk with God. Though my enemies assail me…I want to walk with God.
That’s it. I know what I desire more than anything. I’m not suggesting this is some new revelation. It’s not even a new line item on our New Year’s resolution lists is it? How many times have we thought about what we wanted to change in our life and one of those “things” was, “I want to grow in my walk with the Lord.” Legions of folks utter these words every year, year-after-year, but what holds us back? Well, I hope we can learn some things this morning about what God desires for us by taking a look at what Paul wrote to the folks in Corinth. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 5:14 and let’s get started.
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 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. 16 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. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 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. (2 Cor. 5:14-19 NIVO)
This is such a powerful section of God’s Word for us who are beginning this New Year with a desire to grow in our daily walk with the Lord. For us to realize our heart’s desire to walk with God we must be intentional each day and understand some important truths about God’s desire for each of us. First, we need to understand what walking with God means, according to God’s definition and not our own. Second, we need to understand the role that God has for us in His divine plan to share His love with others. We can gain some incredible insight into both of those questions right here in 2 Corinthians 5.
We can use this Scripture as our map. To walk with God means that we desire Him, and His will, more than anything in life, right? It means that we relinquish control of our lives to the Lord and allow Him to dictate our thoughts, actions, and plans. Paul put it this way: “Whatever we do, it is because Christ’s love controls us.” (2 Corinthians 5:14) Everything that Paul did was based upon Jesus’ love for him. Every decision that was made was decided upon because of Paul’s relationship with Jesus. Every word that was spoken was spoken as a result of Jesus’ control of Paul. Paul only went where Jesus directed him to go. He only did what Jesus directed him to do. This is what it means to walk with God.
The word that Paul used to let the Corinthians know about the degree of control Jesus had on his life was carefully chosen – it is the only time that the word is used in the New Testament. Paul used the word, “??????” (sunecho). The word means, “to surround, hem in, encircle; control, rule. Not the exact word, but another form of the same word, is used in Acts 18:5 where Luke says,
5 When Silas and Timothy came from Macedonia, Paul devoted himself exclusively to preaching, testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ. (Acts 18:5 NIVO)
Here the word means “to be occupied with or absorbed in; be seized.” I am sure you get the idea that the word used by Paul means to be sold-out to Jesus Christ. To allow Him full control, and the power to make every decision concerning my life and yours.
This commitment of Paul to turn over complete control of his life to Jesus flies in the face of everything that we modern-day people know to be good for us. We believe that we must make our own decisions, chart our own course, and set our own sights on what is important to us. Every reasonable person knows that you and I just simply can’t turn over control of our life to another person. If we were to do that then we might not get what we want out of life, right?
Let me ask you this, “How is it going?” Have your decisions paid off in peace? Is the course you have set for your life bringing fulfillment and contentment? Is your plan maintaining the passion that it once had for you? Is your plan bringing you a harvest of solid, God-honoring relationships? For most people that I know they can’t answer “Yes” to those questions. Most people that I know are struggling to find peace, contentment seems to be evading them, and some relationships are always teetering on the brink of the abyss. There is a very simple answer to why this is so – my plans, apart from Jesus, will always be full of “me.” I’m not one to tell you what is or isn’t God’s will for you, but I can tell you that if you, your wants and desires, are at the top of your agenda, then you aren’t walking in God’s will for your life.
What is it that can turn our hearts from wanting only what we want to desiring what God wants for us? We need to set our hearts on 2 Corinthians 5:15 and remind ourselves of this truth throughout each day of our life. Paul writes,
15 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. (2 Cor. 5:15 NIVO)
Because Paul had a good grip on what Jesus had done for him, he was willing to lay down his life for Jesus. God’s agenda for Paul became his primary passion. I have to ask you this morning, “Do you have a good grip on what Jesus has done for you?” Do you have more than head knowledge of Jesus’ sacrificial death for the payment of your sins? Do you really know that every breath you breathe is gift from His hand? Is coming to worship more than a formal activity for you? If not, then I want to urge you to think about these things, consider these truths, and allow the Lord to show you His deep love and provision for you.
When we live however we choose to live we will focus only on ourselves and those we love, but when we walk with God He will move us to focus on His will and serve those around us. When we value our opinions, dreams, and beliefs more than we value the Truth of God’s heart then we end up missing God’s best for us. We only pursue what we want in life. We only hang out with those we deem worthy of our friendship. When we are calling the shots for our life then we make decisions about people based on how we feel about those around us. Those that I feel have value are those that I am willing to care for and serve. We categorize people as those who are “worthy” of God’s love and those who are “unworthy” of His love. There are some that I can’t imagine God ever forgiving and therefore I am not willing to extend God’s love to them. There are others that I feel would be an embarrassment to God and therefore I refrain from sharing God’s love with them. Plain and simple, every one of us apart from Jesus, is prejudiced. Apart from Jesus every one of us is prejudiced. I don’t know what your particular prejudices are, but I know that unless Jesus is calling the plays in your huddle that you are prejudiced. There are all kinds of things that lead us to looking down on other people, but the fact of the matter is that all people matter to God. In spite of your prejudice – all people matter to God. All people mattered to Paul because all people mattered to God! Listen to what Paul says in verse 16.
16 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. (2 Cor. 5:16 NIVO)
The drug addict matters to God! The Wall Street investment broker matters to God! The prostitute on 23rd street matters to God! The IRS agent matters to God! The lady that checks you out at Wal Mart matters to God. The President of the United States matters to God! The high school dropout matters to God. The beauty queen and the ugly duckling matter to God. The man driving the Ferrari and the Food Stamp recipient matter to God. The suicide bomber matters to God! Yes, even the preacher matters to God! Every person has worth and infinite value in the eyes of God and that is why He allowed Jesus to die for us!
That is good news my friend! Paul’s commitment to Jesus led him to give Jesus total and complete control. Paul’s commitment to Jesus led him to see others through the eyes of God. These are things that defined the new man that Paul became through his relationship with Jesus. Paul explains it for himself in verses 17-18 when he says,
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (2 Cor. 5:17-18 NIVO)
Those who become followers of Jesus become new persons. The old is gone and everything has become new. What is there that is “old” in your life that you would like to be freed from, but can’t seem to shake? Is it your reputation? Everybody knows you by what you’ve been even though you don’t want to be “that” anymore. No matter what you do or what you say – they simply won’t let your old life go. God will let it go and will never remind you of your old life again. There are so many things that plague us, but God can grant us peace through His Son. No person can do this my friend. No counselor, no preacher, no psychologist, no medical doctor, no one at all except for God’s Son who has come to bring us back to God.
All of this is what God has done for you and me. He has sought us out while we were far, far from Him. He has given His Son to pay a debt that we owed, but could never pay. God has done this because of His great love for you and me, but this is only part of the good news. God has claimed us, saved us, cleansed us, given us a new vision, a new direction, and a new love for all of humanity because of His saving grace. Let me share with you God’s commission to those of us who have accepted Jesus as Lord of our lives. Listen to verses 18-20.
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 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. 20 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. (2 Cor. 5:18-20 NIVO)
God has given us the task of reconciling people to Him. That is our challenge. That is our privilege. That must be our passion! Paul says that we are Jesus’ ambassadors. I did a little work this past week and found out what it means to be an ambassador. Webster’s definition of the word, “ambassador” is 1. an official envoy; especially: a diplomatic agent of the highest rank accredited to a foreign government or sovereign as the resident representative of his own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment. 2. an authorized representative or messenger.
An ambassador has to be a special person, not just any old person will do. By “special” I’m not necessarily referring to someone who has impeccable credentials or an Einstein-like IQ. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. When William McKinley was President of the United States, he had to make a decision about the appointment of an ambassador to a foreign country. Two candidates were equally qualified, so McKinley searched his mind for some “yardstick” by which he might measure the true character of the men.
After President McKinley made his choice, he revealed how he had made the decision. Many years earlier, when McKinley was still a Congressman, he had observed an inconsiderate action by one of the men. He recalled boarding a streetcar at the rush hour and getting the last vacant seat. Soon an elderly woman got on, carrying a heavy clothes basket. No one got up to offer her a seat, so she walked the length of the car and stood in the aisle, hardly able to keep her balance as the vehicle swayed from side to side. One of the men McKinley was later to consider for ambassador was sitting next to where the woman was standing. Instead of getting up and helping her, he deliberately shifted his newspaper so it would look like he hadn’t seen her. When McKinley noticed this, he walked down the aisle, graciously took her basket, and offered her his seat. The man was unaware that anyone was watching, but that one little act of selfishness would later deprive him of perhaps the crowning honor of his lifetime.
An ambassador of Jesus has to be more than a receptacle of knowledge about Jesus—an ambassador of Jesus must embody the life of Jesus. Jesus was a friend of sinners, Jesus made time for the “least of these,” Jesus washed the feet of others, Paul said that “God’s kindness leads us to repentance,” and Jesus was a servant…and so must His representatives embody these very characteristics.
Paul saw himself as an ambassador at all times. He wasn’t just an ambassador on Sunday morning when he went to church. He wasn’t just an ambassador when he felt like it. Paul was always a representative of Jesus. Pray for me, he wrote from prison,
19 Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Eph. 6:19-20 NIVO)
You and I are called to be ambassadors to this world for the cause of Christ. At all times and in all situations we are ambassadors. What is our message? What can we say or do? Great question! Let me share with you what Paul wrote to the Corinthians,
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. (2 Cor. 5:19 NIVO)
This is our message. God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, forgiving our sins through Jesus, and calling us to take that message to the world. We can’t simply tell people that God loves them—we must demonstrate His love for them as we care for them and walk with them in day-to-day life. People all over the world are hungry and they don’t even know what they are hungry for. We know what they need most; it’s the same thing that we need most. Our greatest need is to know, love, and walk with Jesus. Their hunger is growing by the day while the church sits back in Bible studies, worship services, and weekend retreats. It’s important for us to get together to worship and learn God’s Word, but we’ve forgotten to “go.” The good news is that we don’t have to go far. Those who need to know Jesus’ love, grace, and mercy are right here among us. They live in our neighborhoods, they go to our schools, they work in the same office buildings that we do, they play on our teams, they work where we shop, and the list goes on. We must go.
In 2016 I want to walk with God. I want to learn His ways, seek His will, go where He sends me, speak what He would have me to say, and love those He places in my path. How about you?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
January 3, 2016
2 Corinthians 5:14-19