What God Pleases in You!
O Lord God, as I enter Your presence for worship on this our Mission Festival, fill my heart with the joy of Your salvation! Move me to confess my sins with sincerity, to listen to Your words with care, to sing Your praises with enthusiasm, to lay before You all of my prayers with confidence, and finally to leave Your house with the determination to share Your gospel message as You give me opportunity. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
The LORD calls upon all of us to “prophesy,” that is, to proclaim His truths as He gives us opportunity. The LORD provided people to help Moses proclaim God’s Word in his day, even as He provides all of us to do the same today!
Jesus here gives us His “Great Commission” so that we know what His desire is for us. We are to make disciples of all nations, baptizing and teaching them. We do not have to be nervous or afraid, for He promises to be with us!
Text: 2 Corinthians 5:18-21
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
There was a time about ten years ago, when I suddenly found myself facing an opportunity. I found myself in a situation where I had the opportunity to speak about Christ, but what was I going to say? Anything I could think of seemed inadequate to me to convince this man about the truth of the Gospel.
Certainly this is not an uncommon situation. Many of us have faced situations where we think we should say something but what? What can I say? How can I convince this person?
There was a man in Nepal. His name was J B Bhitrokoti. He was a hindu. But one day as he was walking along the road he found in the gutter a pamphlet about Christ. He read this pamphlet, searched out a nearby congregation, became a Christian, became a pastor, and now works hard all over Nepal to spread the Gospel and teach men and even pastors about Christ.
If God did all this through a pamphlet, torn and dirty, lying in the gutter, I think He can accomplish much through even you as well. Because like this pamphlet, the work of evangelism is NOT about what I say, or who I am. It is about who God is and what HE pleases to do in and through us.
When Paul wants to begin talking about evangelism and the work of the ministry, He begins with the authority of Christ.
“all things are of God”
This is hardly a surprise because this is where Christ Himself begins the great commission. “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” This great commission appears as the final instruction to the Church in all four of the gospels and again in the beginning of Acts. And every time we are thus urged by Christ to go forth and spread the news of our Savior. The authority of Christ is at the heart of that urging. Like a snow plow going before us making it possible for us to go forward in this task.
Christ’s authority is essential. Because it means that Christ is in control of the world. That as much as they may hate and fight against Him, as often as governments and men may attempt to thwart, stop, or crush the Gospel, Christ will open doors for and preserve His people.
Christ’s authority is important because it means that He has control of the Church. It is His mission and His work. We are not building and striving for an institution of men. But for a thing held together and cherished and created by Christ Himself.
But even more importantly, the authority of Christ is important because it means He has authority over your life.
Pretty much my whole life I have had a problem with my hands where they always shake a little. For the most part this is not a big problem. But in high school when I had tests to complete, and certain teachers like to give you a lot of essay questions, as the clock ticked away I tried to write out these long complete answers. The shaking would get worst and my natural reaction would be to tighten my grip on my pen, to attempt to force control. This however only made things worse, until every stroke of the pen was pain and agony. Finally I had to learn to relax to let go a little bit, and yes my penmanship wasn’t what I would like it to be but questions got answered.
It can be a scary thing to allow the Lord to be the Lord and master of our life. We have certain ideas, certain plans, certain goals, objectives, there are some things we think we need for a successful life, ways we have of judging our life. And to lay aside our goals and desires and truly say to the Lord lead me in Your way, when we have no idea where that way is going, might just seem crazy.
But if we are going to become faithful witnesses to His name, if we are going to become ambassadors spreading His light, we have to begin by laying our life in His hands and allowing our life to become what He pleases it to become. And yes He may use us in ways we don’t like. He may even send us down to the gutter to lay there until such a one as J B comes along, as He did to that servant girl who became a witness to Naaman. But then it is not about us, it is about what God pleases to do for us and in us and through us to our fellow men.
And in the end it is not a scary thing to allow the Lord to control and guide our life, because we do know exactly what He has in mind for us, we know exactly what He will make of our life and do with our life. Paul reminds us of this in our text
“For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
This is what God does with our life. He takes it away from us and replaces it with the life of His Son. I have a few nieces and there is nothing they love better than to play dress up as princesses. I wonder if they don’t dream at night of finding out they are adopted and their real parents are a king and queen in a distant and magical land. That is almost exactly what Paul is claiming here. Not by birth but by adoption, we become princes, heirs of God.
We think our life and goals are something we must cling to. But God sees such life for what it is—the life of peasants, life covered in dirt—and offers us instead “the righteousness of God” in Him.
The big question is: do we see it this way? Do we understand how pitiful and despicable our life really is, and do we rejoice in the glory of the gifts that Christ has given to us?
Often I hear comments concerning India, about how they have never heard the gospel they have never heard about Christ, and therefore when they do hear it they rejoice gladly to hear it, and that is why the church is growing so rapidly over there in India. This is partially true. But I think even more importantly the men, the Indian pastors that we work with, these are mostly poor people. They do not have the trinkets, and the wealth, and the entertainment which we have. And they are not therefore distracted. They are not blinded to the real destitution of their life. They know exactly who and what they are, and they therefore rejoice exceedingly to receive the grace and riches that God offers in Christ. Then when they go out to preach they do it as men full of joy for this message they have.
One man characterized American pastors as those who preach as if they only half believe. They say what they are supposed to believe instead of what they rejoice in. In India the men believe, rejoice and that joy fills their speaking. What does Paul say:
“as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.”
This is what God pleases in and for us. When we recognize what a wonderful gift it is, when we rejoice in that gift, that life of Christ pours out, pleading with others to receive this gift for themselves as well.
As an unmarried man, I often run into people who seem to believe it their personal responsibility to make sure that I get married. Not just here in the states but over in India and Nepal as well. Why? Because they know what a wonderful blessing marriage is, and are eager that I should receive this blessing as well. If people are so filled with joy for marriage, a gift which we mutilate and ruin on a daily basis with our sins, how much more shouldn’t we be eager to press upon people the beauty and joy of the Life of God’s son, which He pleases to give to us!
That life which we read and hear and learn about in His message, in His word, which is exactly why it is so important that we remain constantly in His word reading and learning it.
As a missionary I obviously often spend long periods of time in foreign countries and there I often talk to people whose fundamental beliefs and view of the world and even of America are very different from those that I grew up with. And the first reaction to such views is often: “how could you possibly think that way, you are so wrong.” But you talk to them long enough, you live with them and maybe you just begin to view things the way they see it, and you begin to understand what they are talking about.
This is our problem. God sees the world in a perspective of truth that we can never begin to understand. God tells us things that seem utter foolishness to us. Like the fact that we are nothing but dust and even our greatest accomplishments are piles of rotting stinking dung. And so the Lord has to patiently teach us little by little to see the world through His eyes. And He does that as Paul so clearly points out here, through the ministry of reconciliation, through what we call the means of Grace.
In our text Paul reminds us that God saw our problem, and He sent a solution, His own Son to die for us. But that wasn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to fix the problem, because no one on earth could see the problem. Sure there were and are some who know there is a problem, but no one could or can really understand the true nature of the problem, that man himself was the problem full of sin as He is. So God sent not only His Son, but the Word about His Son, the message, His message which constantly and consistently forces us to see the world through the eyes of the eternal God. On the one hand through the law teaching us the true nature of the problem, i.e. our sin, and on the other hand through the Gospel teaching the only solution to the problem CHRIST.
This is His message and it is through this message alone that Christ works in His power to bring people to faith, and to sustain them in faith, and to cause them to grow in faith.
There is a question which hangs over the churches of our day. And depending on how a church answers this question it can greatly shift the nature of that congregation’s worship service and their attitude towards worship. The question is, “Who is the service for? Is it primarily for the members? Or is it primarily a means to bring in new people off the street?” Now from a Baptist reformed point of view I can understand this question. Because they tend to believe there is a big difference between the message God has for unbelievers and believers. They tend to think the gospel is for unbelievers and the law for believers. They also tend to think that evangelism is all about you, and how clever you are and how convincing you are, and how friendly you are. But what I don’t understand is why this question is also being asked in Lutheran churches. Here we know and understand and are taught what Paul expresses right here in the text, that it is through the Gospel, the means of Grace that God offers His blessings and speaks to all men, believer and unbeliever alike. That the thing that ALL men need whether believer or unbeliever is a weekly, even daily dosing of law and gospel, constantly, continually. There is no difference between the needs of unbeliever and believer, thus the question itself in Lutheran Church becomes meaningless.
You ask what can I say? But the message through which God is at work in your friend, is the same message that you hear every Sunday. Speak to them His message. Speak to them law and GOSPEL, because it is through this message, not through the cunning arguments of men, that God will work what He pleases in and through you.
Ten years ago when I was faced with that opportunity, and didn’t know what to say, I simply prayed in my head, “Lord, I could use a little help here.” And the Lord showed His authority over the earth and in my life. I was no sooner done praying than the man in front me asked me, “What do Lutherans teach about justification?” And so we talked about the life of Christ, and we talked about His message, the Gospel. If the Lord can do it through a dirty pamphlet, imagine what He can accomplish according to His pleasure though you as well, to the glory of His NAME. AMEN.
—Missionary Pastor Matthew Ude