EASTER SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 17 April 2022
Sermon Text: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
Sermon Series: “Dying and Rising with Christ”
I. We regard people according to the Spirit of God
II. We have the ministry of reconciliation
III. We are ambassadors for Christ
What has inspired us in these three days since Good Friday is the core of Christian belief. That is, the teaching of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Son of God died in our place and rose from the tomb for our eternal joy. This is the core of what we Christians believe. We think of the Lord’s death and resurrection all the time, but especially over these three days, our hearts are specifically led to the saving grace of the cross and the magnificent victory of the empty tomb. Our souls are inspired, and our hearts are joyful with thanks. What a blessed season this is!
The unbelieving world also enjoys Easter season, but their delight is simply ephemeral and disappears in a day with their chocolate Easter bunnies. But Christian’s joy and excitement are always in our believing hearts and souls. And they’re simply boosted up over this season.
And the booster is the truth of Christ’s death and resurrection. By the Lord’s death, we were moved from the darkness of sin and into the marvellous light of Jesus’ forgiveness of sins and eternal life; and through His resurrection, our victory over the enemy Satan is confirmed. That empty tomb is what Jesus left behind to prove that we’re no longer under the curse of sin; death no longer has dominion over us. We’ve overcome death through faith in Jesus.
So, the psalmist’s confession made in the famous 23rd psalm is our confession through faith, and we boldly say, “Even though I walk through the valley of the SHADOW OF DEATH” – do you hear this? It is not ‘the fearful valley of death’ but ‘the valley of the SHADOW OF DEATH’ because no longer death is a threat for Christians who through faith in Jesus have risen from the dead, but it simply is a pass that needs to walk through to reach our blessed destination! So, with the psalmist, our confession continues, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” The truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection becomes the foundation of such a faith of Christians like you and me alongside the psalmist.
In a word, we’re ‘born again’ Christians, and its true meaning is ‘resurrection Christians.’ All who believe in the risen Lord Jesus are ‘resurrection Christians.’ We think as resurrection Christians; we say and do things and live our life as resurrection Christians. We do it all every day, but in every Easter season, this truth deepens and increases the delight of our heart and soul. This is what vs. 14 and 15 of our text passage point out, saying, “one has died for all, therefore, all have died; and He died for all, … for their sake [He] died and was raised.”
But there’s more in God’s word we’ve read. Through the Apostle Paul God tells us about “those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him [Jesus Christ].” The point raised by God with these words is living a life of resurrection. In other words, Christians who are raised together with Jesus are to live their resurrection.
Its tone or nuance is urgent and firm. It sounds like you and I must immediately start living a life of resurrection. No such idea as moratorium or grace period is sensed here. As soon as one is raised from the dead through faith in Jesus, that’s the beginning of living resurrection.
What is the reason for this urgency and immediacy? V. 17 of our text tells us the answer, that is, born-again Christians are “new creation” or, as some other translations render, ‘new creatures.’ No longer are we the ones we used to be; instead, we’re new ‘creation’ belonging to a completely different realm or world.
I find a good example of this in sports like rugby or soccer – my favourite sport. Imagine a Fremantle Dockers player has changed his team and moved over to West Coast Eagles or vice versa. Immediately after signing the contract and putting the pen down, he’d surely behave like one of the West Coast Eagles players, wouldn’t he? He’d never talk with his couch about the way he used to do in training sessions at Dockers; never would he demand his play mates to move like the way his former team members did, would he? He’d surely forget the way of his former team, but thoroughly immersed in that of his present one. He thinks like all other Eagles players would; he speaks and moves like all his colleagues would. And this change has to be immediate.
Similarly but much more apparently, Christians are to start living a resurrection life immediately after our conversion. And that’s what the rest of our text passage points out.
Now, the question is, ‘What is living a resurrection life?’ We’re told in this passage three things.
I. WE REGARD PEOPLE ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT OF GOD
The first is the way we discern or recognise people. No longer do we regard people according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit of God.
Before we met Jesus and believed Him as our Saviour and Lord, we used to recognise people according to the world’s standards such as wealth, fame, education, appearance and so on. But since we became born-again followers of Jesus, we stopped recognising individuals by those standards.
Some of you might think that you have not fully stopped, but partially continues in the former way, but consider what has taken place in you since your conversion. I believe that there has been a major shift of paradigm in your mind and life in terms of discerning others. For example, you and I have started looking at the poor like Jesus did. I mean, we stopped despising them but have begun pitying them. Christian’s pity is different from the world’s pity. The world seeks to solve material poverty of the poor whereas Christian’s pity is for their soul, knowing that filling their material needs is not the answer but their true happiness and wealth will only come from the Saviour. The same is for all others disregarding their wealth, fame or appearance.
Seeing a famous and influential person or an ordinary Joe-blow, we no longer recognise them based on what they show or have, but on each one’s spiritual wellbeing. ‘Is he/she Christian?’ is the very first question that comes up to our minds when facing a new face. It’s clear evidence of the change that has initiated in you and me and all Christians.
At the same time, we regard other Christians as fellow members of God’s household. No longer do we recognise each other as enemies, but brothers and sisters in Jesus. We look at each other and find the same blood-drops Jesus shed on the cross for washing our sins and for our reconciliation to the Father and to one another.
You know, the most difficult command God has ever given to us is to ‘love your neighbours.’ When you think of a people living tens of thousands of kilometres away, you can easily start loving them. But when you turn your eyes onto your immediate neighbours, that’s another story. Consider the relationships among nations. Historically, the fierce enemies have always been close neighbours. Romeo and Juliet in Shakespeare’s storybook were children of two neighbouring enemies. English and French have not been friendly toward each other for centuries. Coming to the other side of the globe, China, Korea and Japan haven’t thought about each other as good and trustful partners over the same or longer period. No, our neighbours are the worst enemies and the hardest people to get along with, let alone, loving each other.
But, in Christ Jesus, I love my fellow brothers and sisters who are Chinese or Japanese. I know Christians everywhere recognise each other as family members in God. We love one another in Jesus. It’s impossible for people to love their neighbours if Christ is not in them. So, 1 Tim. 5:1-3 directs us in these words, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, young men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.” In every Christian’s heart and vein, only the blood of Jesus runs!
Such is discerning and recognising people – both believers and unbelievers – according to the Spirit. And this is Christian’s living a life of resurrection.
II. WE HAVE THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION
Alongside this, carrying out ‘the ministry of reconciliation’ is to live a resurrection life. Reuniting people to God the Father is this ministry of reconciliation. In a word, helping the unbelievers to know Jesus and, through believing in Him, be reconciled to the Father. This is living a resurrection life.
This is because Jesus died and rose again to give His all to us, beginning from His eternal life. Of course, this does not include His divinity. He is God, but we’re His creatures; and this never changes. But all others – like His humility, love, patience, gentleness, meekness, kindness, and so on – He eagerly desires to give to us. Surprisingly, this includes His glory and heritage in God’s eternal kingdom!
As Jesus’ mission on earth was to bring God’s elect to the Father for reconciliation, the same mission is now ours. We ought to do this work of bringing people to Jesus, and through Him, to the Father.
In fact, this is what you and I have been doing. We’ve spent so many hours with prayers for the unbelievers and this world. We’ve spent significant number of hours in talking to family members, neighbours and even strangers. We’ve posted Bible verses and Christian words on our Facebook, and sent texts and emails to many. We’ve participated in various gatherings and involved in various forms of services and works. I want you to know that you’ve been living resurrection in your life in this way.
Not only guiding the unbelievers to Christ, but also helping and encouraging fellow Christians to love Jesus more is an important part of this ministry of reconciliation. And we’ve been doing this faithfully and joyfully ever since our conversion which is living a resurrection life.
III. WE’RE AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST
Thirdly and lastly, we’re Christ’s ambassadors in this world. I won’t spent much time with this point because what I’ve explained to you so far covers much of this point. But let me emphasise one thing, that is, we’re officially appointed ambassadors for Christ. This is not a hyperbole nor a metaphor. Rather, it is an official title for you and me and all Christians as long as we continue our life on this side of the glory.
This means we officially represent Jesus at the places each of us are sent. It begins from each one’s home and family circle, then, is extended to bigger circles, including our workplaces and society we belong to and the nation we live in. In every circle and level, you and I officially represent Jesus the Christ. So, v. 20 of our text passage says, “God makes His appeal through us”!
Living a life of an ambassador for Christ is living a resurrection life, my fellow ambassadors!
Let me conclude by pointing out the encouraging fact – that is, you and I are indeed living a resurrection life in Jesus. What a blessing this is! Because of our life in Jesus’ resurrection, this message of Easter boosts our joy up and deepens our thanksgiving to Christ our Lord.
One thing I’d like to urge you, my fellow Christians and ambassadors for Christ, is that you and I ought to seek a life that is empowered by Jesus’ resurrection every moment and every day. What I mean is that you and I should ask God to help us to discern people only according to the Spirit, and should fervently seek to bring unbelievers to Jesus while strengthening fellow believers in faith. In all these things, we must always live as Christ’s official representatives to people around us and the world.
Seeking this and desiring it all, then, endeavouring to carry these out is a life empowered by Jesus’ resurrection. ***