You all know this, but we live in a very polarized world, country, and community. And who do we blame for this? What do we blame? A lot of people have different opinions about who’s at fault. It’s the media, the education system, social media, Trump, Clinton, Biden, religion, Putin, Marxism, capitalism, China, the swamp, the deep state, wealth, poverty, race, hillbillies, you name it. (No, literally you can put whatever you want on this list, and someone will agree with you.) We don’t get along. We are polarized. And I don’t mean we like a generic we someone else out there. I mean us. We’re polarized.
We tighten up the moment we see someone share something on social media that we disagree with, and maybe even feel like we need to get a shot in to prove them wrong. It happens when you watch one of those other “news” networks that isn’t the one you’ve deemed accurate and true. It’s there when we overhear or are part of conversations about politics, sports, or just about anything that is headed in a direction we don’t like. I mean I saw it. I saw it just now when I mentioned Trump and when I mentioned Biden. It’s real. You feel it. You live it. One little word and we hit fight or flight mode. And it’s sad, downright depressing if you think about it. Worse yet, in it all, in this polarized world we live in, we easily lose sight of the very person Christ set us free to see, to serve, and to love – our neighbor, each other. And that is why, these words before us today from God’s Word…they change everything.
And we need to understand this. If you look at these Words before us – there is a lot here, a lot we could talk about, but ultimately there are two things I want us to walk away with today. The first thing is this: you’re different. You, in this room, you are not like everyone else in this world. Your motivation in life is different. Your attitude is different. Your view on life and death is different and, perhaps, most importantly your view of yourself is different. We will talk about that more in a moment. Let me just share the second point with you. Not only are you and I different, but you also have a unique purpose. You have work to do. Now, let’s go back and talk about how we are different.
People change, would you agree? Maybe an experience in life, or age, or an individual causes you to change in some way. Right, so for instance, a loved one dies, and suddenly you’re valuing life a bit more, time with loved ones a bit more, because you realize life is short. Work, money, a career, while important maybe isn’t as important after you’ve lost someone in your life. You’ve changed. Sometimes we change a lot. Sometimes we change very little. If you think about Paul, the inspired author of the Words before us, he changed.
You might recall the Apostle’ Paul’s past life, the life he had before he was an apostle.? He had no love for Jesus or any of the Jesus “freaks” who were his disciples. Here in the words before us Paul talks about how he used to view Jesus from a “worldly point of view.” To Paul, Jesus wasn’t anyone special. He wasn’t the promised Messiah but was in fact a false Messiah, a fraud. And he happily hunted down Jesus’ followers, threw them in jail, watched them die. And, yet here are these words…from Paul. Look what he says, “Christ’s love compels us.” Wait a sec, what changed?
It’s funny even Paul realized how much he had changed and how shocking that change might be to some. Just before the verses of our lesson he writes that “…some of you reading this letter might think I’m out of my mind.” So, what did change for Paul? What made him different? He tells us. Someone died. Here is specifically what he says, he says, “…one died for all…” And, if it’s not clear, Paul is talking about Jesus. Jesus died for all. This is what changed Paul – Jesus died for him! But, think about this, why is that so important, why does that matter? Why does Paul care that Jesus died for him when not so long-ago Paul wanted nothing to do with Jesus or any of his followers?
Well, how about this, why does this matter to you? Hm? Paul is all worked up about this. He thinks this is so important. It’s clearly changed him. So, what about you? I don’t want to put any of you on the spot, so let me just share this with you. Jesus died for all, Paul says, Jesus died for you because you needed him to. And that’s really hard to admit sometimes, and here is why… admitting that means admitting my faults, admitting my sins, admitting that I need help, admitting that there is someone out there who determines what is right and what is wrong, and it’s not me. That means there is a standard and I either live up to it or I don’t. And guess what? The person who set the standard, he says you’ve fallen short, and he is pretty clear about what happens when we fall short, “The soul who sins is the one that will die” he proclaims to us through the prophet Ezekiel.
Now, we can choose to not like that. We can choose to say that’s unfair and mean and cruel. Go ahead and do that, but then whose standard are you going to live up to? Yours? Okay, say that’s the case, you set the standard. Pretend then with me. Say a little tiny invisible tape recorder is put around your neck and the only thing that little recorder picks up is the moment you tell someone how to live according to your standard. So the moment you tell someone what to do, or correct someone, or judge someone, ‘click.’ The recorder turns on. Okay, and eventually your life comes to an end, and it turns out God is real, but God says to you, “You know what, I’m gonna be fair here, I’m going to judge you by your standards, not mine. And he comes up and he takes that recorder off you, and he says “Let’s just play this and see how you’ve done living up to your own standard.” ‘Click.’ Even if God used your standard, you’d still fall short. You know that.
So, you see, we are those sinning souls. There is no getting around it. We will die, both physically and eternally. But remember what Paul said, what he wrote? “…One died for all… There on that cross which Jesus carried “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” as one did die for all. There on that cross we were both judged and saved, put to death with Christ, but then given life, completely condemned, but even more thoroughly loved. God’s demand for payment of sin and his deep love for a world lost in sin met at the death of his Son. And when that encounter happened, when we sinners and our holy God met – think about this – he died. God died. But first he shouted, “It is finished.” And then “he died for all.”
And look what Paul says happened when “Jesus died and was raised for all” – verses 17 and 18 – “you are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! And all of this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ.” God changed you! And don’t miss this point. Your salvation is done. And God did this without your help. He did this without your input, but he did this for you, and it has changed you.
In Christ you rose from a spiritual death to a spiritual life. A life that is marked, not by self-love but by love for a Savior who loved us first. Here we start to get a glimpse of what motivated Paul to carry out his ministry, he realized it wasn’t his ministry and it wasn’t even his life; it all belonged to God. Are we starting to see the same? We’re different. We live a “borrowed life.” We belong to God, and that’s a beautiful thing. To know his love and forgiveness, to rest securely in his grace and mercy, to have the certainty of heaven…that’s freeing. It allows you to view your time on this earth in a different way – this is my time of grace – it allows you to see what goes on in this world in a different way. You see the sin. You see the need for a just God, but also a loving and forgiving God. You also then see your purpose because now you’re not looking at people from a worldly point of view, and you see them as God does.
God doesn’t see appearance. He’s not concerned with race, age, or income. He does not care if you prefer a candidate from the left, from the right, or from another aisle. When he looks at the people of this world, he sees a soul, someone who might be lost, someone who might be found, but always someone for whom Jesus gave his life to save. And that was Jesus’ purpose to save, to reconcile, to bring lost and dead sinners to a new life, one with him for all eternity. And now he gives that purpose to you. You “are Christ’s ambassador, as though God were making his appeal through you.”
In a polarized world, this changes everything. As you encounter the people in this world, your purpose now isn’t to be right and to prove them wrong. Your purpose isn’t to find some way to manipulate them and get what you want. Your purpose isn’t to compare yourself to them, so you feel better about yourself. Your purpose is to bring them here, to show them what has changed, that in Christ Jesus they have forgiveness and peace with God – they’re saved! Um, there is this great quote from the movie Holy Man, starring Eddie Murphy, I’ve shared it with a few of you. It goes like this: “Seventy-five years. That’s how much time you get if you’re lucky. Seventy-five years. Seventy-five winters. Seventy-five spring times. Seventy-five summers. And Seventy-five autumns. When you look at it like that, it’s not a lot of time, is it? Don’t waste it. Get your head out of the rat race and forget about the superficial things that pre-occupy your existence and get back to what’s important now. Right Now. This very second. And I’m not saying, drop everything and let the world come to a grinding halt. I’m saying that you could be loving more. You could be taking some chances. You could be living more. You could be spending more time with your family. You could be getting in touch with the part of you that lives instead of fears; the part of you that loves instead of hates; the part of you that recognizes the humanity in all of us.”
Life is short – you know this So, it is good to make the most of the time you have here, to appreciate this life and all the blessings God has given to you. But what if we could do more? What if we could make it last, not this life with its sufferings and sorrows, but a new life full of peace and joy and perfection.
That’s our purpose in life. You are an ambassador for Christ. And the message you carry, the message of a Savior, it’s already changed you, so now use it to change the world. Let Christ’s love compels you.” Love because he loved you first.And I gotta tell you, loving people, loving people like Jesus does – that means serving, and forgiving, and putting others first – yeah, that’ll make you different in this world, but it’ll also change things not just for you, but for all those whom you encounter in this life. Because when you love someone like Jesus, and you share his work of salvation – law and gospel – your preparing people for a life to come. And in Christ Jesus that life will be an eternity together in heaven, and that will not end. So, don’t delay. “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” Amen.