Making Connections

For the last few weeks we have been talking about what we believe as followers of Jesus. We haven’t covered everything in detail, but we’ve covered a lot of ground all the same. If you’ve been tracking with us, you hopefully have a better understanding of what you believe than you did before. That’s all well and good, but knowledge for its own sake isn’t particularly helpful. What are we supposed to do with all of that? Today we kick off a new teaching series in which we are going to offer an answer to that very question. In this new series, Tell Someone, we’ll be talking about how to share what you know with another person in hopes of leading them into a relationship with Jesus. This should be a fun ride.

Making Connections

A couple of weeks ago, Nate asked you an important question: What’s next? In his conversation with you, he set your sights on the Holy Spirit. I want to ask you the same question this morning, but with a little bigger a perspective in mind. For the last seven weeks we have been talking about what we believe as followers of Jesus. While we didn’t cover every possible detail by any stretch of the imagination, we covered some of the biggest and most important theological concepts. Knowing all of that, though, is one thing. The question I hope you found yourself asking as we finished up last week was this: Now what? What’s next? What are we supposed to do now that we know all of that? For the next few weeks, I want to talk with you about an answer to that question.

This morning we are kicking off a brand-new teaching series. Like last time, this one is going to follow the outline of our Bible Studies for Life series meaning this is a great time to get into a group. You’ll be starting fresh and getting a really full look at the topics each week. This series is called, Tell Someone. When we wrap this up in a few weeks, I want you to not just be, but feel more confident than ever at sharing your faith with another person. As I said just last week: The whole purpose of our last series was to be able to answer the question of why you believe what you believe. You may not have thought about it in these terms before, but answering the question of why you believe what you believe has a name. It’s called evangelism. You know a bit better now the answers you can give to the question of why you believe. For the next few weeks, we’re going to talk about how to do it.

But, if we are going to talk about sharing our faith with another person, there really isn’t anywhere we can start other than our commission to do just that from Jesus. This is most famously found right at the tail end of Matthew’s Gospel. This is Jesus’ famous Great Commission. We find Jesus and the gang here on a mountain in Galilee and He is giving them His final instructions before ascending back to the Father (the scene Luke includes at the very beginning of Acts). As they are all standing there, Jesus says this to them: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

So, there you have it. Those are our marching orders as followers of Jesus. I suspect many of you have heard those before. We are to be making disciples as we go. Of everyone. Everywhere. Simple, right? Perhaps in theory. And make no mistake: Jesus’ words here are powerful and important. They are Jesus’ words, after all. But this isn’t the only time we encounter this idea in the Scriptures. And this morning as we start this whole conversation about sharing our faith by thinking through exactly what our job is when it comes to this monumental task, I want to take you to something the apostle Paul said about all this that puts our task in a whole new light. Personally, Paul’s words here help frame out just how important this work we’ll be talking about over the next few weeks really is.

These words are found in his second letter to the church in ancient Corinth. If you have a copy of the Scriptures handy this morning, find your way to 2 Corinthians 5. Let’s take a look at this starting in v. 16: “From now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Even if we have known Christ from a worldly perspective, yet now we no longer know him in this way.”

Okay, I know this starts out a little strange, but let me see if I can unpack this for you. Paul had just been talking with them about the change in dominant reality we have in Christ. The world around us does not define our lives any longer. Instead, we are defined by the kingdom of God. We see the world around us and all the people around us through that lens and not the lens of the world. We don’t think and reason and engage with the circumstances of our lives the way the people around us do. We’re just different in Christ than we are without Him. Or, as Paul puts it in v. 17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” Again: If you are in Christ, you are new. If you are not in Christ, you can be made new when you find yourself in Him. If you’re claiming to be in Christ and you aren’t new…well…you may need to do some reevaluating of your claims.

In any event, all of this, Paul says, “is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” In other words, this reconciliation was God’s plan all along. But perhaps that idea doesn’t make sense on its face. Paul figured that might happen. So he explains himself further in the next verse: “That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…” Let’s pause there for just a second. Is that not an amazing idea? The world was separated from God because of sin, but He wasn’t willing to leave that distance between us and Him. That was the whole purpose of His sending Jesus to die in our place and rise to bring new life to all who believe in Him. In Christ, He doesn’t count our trespasses, our sins, against us. That idea alone should stop you in your tracks. It’s ridiculously unfair. We’ve done all these things that are wrong and in Christ they don’t get counted against us. It’s like we have a free pass. Actually, that’s exactly it. In Christ, we have a free pass. No matter how much wrong you have done in your entire life, in Christ, it doesn’t count against you as far as God is concerned. At all. Neither the quantity nor the quality makes any difference at all. In Christ, your slate is wiped clean. This is really jaw-dropping stuff when you stop to think about it.

And God has done all of that, “and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us.” Do you hear Paul here? The job of sharing this incredibly good news about how our record with God can be wiped completely clean in Christ—news the band MercyMe rightly calls “not just good news, but the best news ever”—has been given…to us. Let me put that as directly as I can: If someone is going to hear about this incredible Gospel, they’re going to hear about it because of you; because of me. He’s given this great message to us. God wants you to connect people to Jesus.

Listen to where Paul goes next: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ.” Do you know what an ambassador is? Google’s definition was pretty bland, but Wikipedia’s was actually fairly helpful. Listen to this: “An ambassador is an official envoy, especially a high-ranking diplomat who represents a state and is usually accredited to another sovereign state or to an international organization as the resident representative of their own government or sovereign or appointed for a special and often temporary diplomatic assignment.” That’s a lot of words there, but let’s break it down together. An ambassador is a person appointed by the head of one state to officially represent that state’s interests within the context of a another state.

Well, think about some of the things we’ve covered as far as what we believe about God lately. Most notably right now, God’s kingdom is not the kingdom of this world. It is a separate kingdom. As we’ll talk about in a few more weeks when we get into the next big answer to the question of what we do with what we believe, we who are in Christ are a part of that kingdom and not the kingdom where we physically dwell. You and I may be citizens of this great nation, but if you would name the name of Jesus as your Lord and Savior, your primary citizenship is in the kingdom of God, not the United States of America. And as a citizen of the kingdom of God, who is your head of state? Jesus, right? Well, your head of state has appointed you to the task of representing His interests in the kingdom where you dwell right now. And oh does He have interests in the kingdom where you dwell right now.

We are indeed Christ’s ambassadors, “since God is making his appeal through us.” God’s invitation to join His eternal kingdom and have your slate wiped clean in Christ does not come by written invitation. There are not going to be magical letters delivered by owl post fluttering down through your chimney anytime soon. God isn’t going to send a sky-writing plane to etch the words in clouds on the great blue canvas of the heavens. While He does speak through dreams and visions, those aren’t anywhere close to His most preferred means of communication. God makes His appeal through you. Why? Because you who are in Christ have been given the ministry and message of reconciliation. You are the ambassador Jesus has chosen to use to advance His interests in the place where you live. And listen: You can debate and question the wisdom of His choosing all you want, but it doesn’t change the fact of His choosing.

Okay, so what do we do? “We plead on Christ’s behalf: ‘Be reconciled to God.’” Now, phrased like that, that sounds a bit desperate, I’ll grant you, but that’s not the point. Listen carefully to Paul’s words. We can’t take this duty lightly. There’s just too much at stake. People around us are living separated from God. They have a tab with Him that is far beyond what they can pay. They may be living how they please now, but eventually the end is going to come. The tab will come due. There is going to be a reckoning at which payment will be demanded. The time of judgment will come, and all sales will be final. If your account is overdrawn as all accounts apart from Christ are, that’s not going to be a good day. It will be a day of weeping and gnashing of teeth—that is, sadness from the results and incredible frustration that there had been a way to avoid it all along, but they just wouldn’t take the deal. We don’t want for anyone to face such an ignominious end…right? And so we plead on Christ’s behalf.

But before you go thinking that maybe there are some folks you really would be okay to see just miss out on the cut, you’re not pleading because you’re so desperate to see them reconciled to God. You’re pleading on Christ’s behalf. His love is so great that He is nigh on desperate to see them take up His offer and reject the death that will otherwise embrace them. As His ambassadors in the place He has stationed us, we are simply representing His interests faithfully and well. So we plead: “Be reconciled to God.” And why? Because “He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Jesus became our sacrifice so that our slate can be wiped clean. Anybody’s slate can be wiped clean. In Him, God won’t count our trespasses against us. So really, when you think about it, if we can just get someone to connect with Jesus, the rest will fairly well take care of itself. And so that’s the very thing we seek: God wants you to connect people with Jesus.

That’s the one idea you most need to understand as we begin this journey together. God wants you to connect people with Jesus. This one, overriding truth lies behind everything we’ll talk about together as we go. God wants you to connect people with Jesus. Which people? Well, all of them, but how about we just start with the people closest to you. And forget about family for just a minute since that may be about the scariest notion ever. Start with your coworkers and friends who haven’t connected with Him. Start with your neighbors who haven’t connected with Him. If you live in Oakboro, there’s a good chance you have some new neighbors. The odds are about even they haven’t connected with Jesus. Maybe even a bit better than that. Well, God wants you to connect people with Jesus.

And if that idea isn’t enough to drive you to the task all by itself, just think back through the things we’ve been talking about this morning and which Paul highlights in his letter here. Again: we can have our tab with God marked paid in full. Who wouldn’t want that? Who wouldn’t want the confidence that God is pleased with them? We can have that when we connect with Jesus. And, wouldn’t you know it, God wants you to connect people with Jesus.

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