Although a bit hard to believe, this is the starting point of much of the Christian conversation. I recently met a guy named Brad, who within the first 5 minutes of having met him, told me the reason he left the south and moved to the west coast was that he got “sick and tired of people asking me if I was saved or not. I mean, these people were constantly bugging me about going to hell. God may be real. God may not. I’m not sure…but I like life out here in the west where no one bothers you about this.” Keep in mind he offered all this to me without knowing I’m a pastor or without us even having a discussion about faith. This was his SOLE REASON for wanting out of his small town in Georgia.
Brad has been on my mind a lot as I prepare to preach this week on 2 Corinthians 5. In the passage I’m preparing on, Paul writes, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor. 5:10) Interestingly enough, when you do a word study on the word “recompensed” it reveals that the word means to ‘be repaid’ or ‘be rewarded.’ As you read 2 Corinthians, Paul paints a beautiful picture of being remade into the image of Christ. Part of this reality is that our actions do matter and that at the end of our time on earth, we will all face God and face the results of our decisions. But as you continue reading in 2 Cor. 5, Paul has this incredible encouragement that we are able to have the confidence in our transformation not because of our own “moral power” or “self control” but because of Jesus himself. Paul writes, “For the love of Christ controls us” (5:14) and this is what enables us to be “a new creature in Christ.” And when this happens, when we let go of our own images of perfection but instead cling to Christ, Paul tells us that “the old things have passed away and behold, new things have come.”
Instead of inviting people into a NEW LIFE of Christ where freedom and joy abounds, often we phrase the invitation to Christ in the negative. “Well you don’t want to go to hell, do you?” Where did this come from? Why do we do this? We are meant to be “ambassadors of Christ (5:20) who are literally begging people to be reconciled back to God. But listen carefully what Paul says here, “Now all these things are form God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” Jesus himself was committed to reconciling, fixing broken relationships, and not counting out the sins of others. Shouldn’t we be doing the same? Shouldn’t we be asking new questions of people that are far from God? Shouldn’t our lives be transformed by joy and peace and love so that we have something to offer those that are feeling cut off, despondent, and hopeless?
I’m not sure about you, but I’m ready to ask new questions of people that are struggling to find Jesus. Instead of “are you going to hell” or “are you saved” I think I want to start with “what’s your name.”
What do you need?
What are you scared about?
What makes you happy?
How can I serve you?
Maybe this can be the beginning of reconciliation. As we change our questions, perhaps we’ll be able to be used more to help others find their way back to God. Come this Sunday to Bethany North at 9:30am where I’m preaching about this very subject. We are called to a new way of living so that God can truly use us as his ambassadors. I look forward to seeing you there!