Exeter Temple Message notes: Sunday 3rd January 2016
Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Is there something larger than life; more important than life itself?
To what cause do you give yourself?
As another year ends and a new one begins we do not need to look for a different cause to commit for this is the highest purpose and one to which God himself gives to us.
“God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them and he committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19)
To reconcile means to restore, to bring together, to mend and it is most of all to do with relationships.
There is no doubt that in our world today there is a need for the repairing of broken relationships. There are broken bodies, broken dreams, broken homes, broken lives because at one time there was a break in a relationship.
“God settles the relationship between us and him and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah giving the world a fresh start but offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.” (2 Corinthians 5:19 The Message)
To keep committed to this cause we will need the following things:
“Well we have some enthusiasm and when our enthusiasm dies I am afraid we shall die too.” Catherine BoothThe fact that so many people have supported the Salvation Army as a good cause during the Christmas season is very humbling. But for each of us the cause of Christ, the mission of the Salvation Army demands more than making a donation in a collecting tin.
How easy it is to recognize the purpose of God to mend broken lives to be a great one but to respond in a superficial way, that enthuses us for a while but is lost when the way is not clear or when other demands crowd for attention.
The full quote about enthusiasm from Catherine Booth says,
“The power of the Salvation Army is not its enthusiasm; neither does it consist in certain views of truth or in certain feelings about truth, No! No! It consists in whole hearted, thorough out and out surrender to God: And that with or without feeling is the right thing. That is the religion of the Salvation Army.”
The Bible has some very strong words to say about being lukewarm.
“I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!” (Revelation 3:16)
If Jesus by His death and resurrection can really mend this broken world then a mere lukewarm appreciation about it, is confusing, Jesus went as far as to say icy indifference or active opposition was better than to insult Him by saying we believe in his cause and yet live indifferently.
Bridge building costs a great deal of money, time and effort.
Bridges link places that are separated from one another and are a lovely picture of our cause of reconciliation. Like ordinary bridges there is need for great design resources, maintenance and investment.
And we have it in Christ. When the Lord saves us He doesn’t just leave it there.
Still God gives his willing servant
Full equipment for the task
Power is found by those who seek it
Grace is given to those who ask. (SASB34:4)
Paul recalled a time when he and Silas went to the port of Thessalonica to be a messenger of reconciliation. During the short stay of Paul and Silas in Thessalonica a thriving church was established. Paul acknowledges that this success was not because of the cleverness or personality of him and Silas but can only be explained by the power of the Spirit,
“For our gospel came to you not only in word but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
Building bridges of reconciliation is never transmitted through unaided personality alone.
Apollos was eloquent but he preached an incomplete gospel. He was sincere but sincerity was not enough.
Christians at Galatia fell into the trap of believing they could rely on their own ability.
“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit are you trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3)
Much is talked of in the giving of ourselves to the cause of Christ. It calls for sacrifice and service.
When Dr. David Livingstone was working in Africa, a group of friends wrote him: "We would like to send other men to you. Have you found a good road into your area yet?"
According to a member of his family, Dr. Livingstone sent this message in reply: "If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road”.
As right as Livingstone was to seek a people who are prepared for any sacrifice it should also be remembered that God is not man’s debtor.
There is something utterly fulfilling about being part of something great.
“Only one who is seized by a great cause has a full life.” (Anon)
What greater cause is there than the cause of Jesus Christ, what greater satisfaction than seeing it win through.
Jesus took up God’s cause and in Gethsemane He anguished with where that would lead Him. It was for the JOY that was set before Him that He endured the cross.
“There is not real impoverishment in giving
And not enrichment if I live to take
For in such taking I would lose more deeply
But, O what gain to give for Jesus’ sake!”
God’s cause expressed in Christ is not just a campaign of ideas that we seek to put across. God’s cause has a personal face, the face of Christ.
It is for Jesus’ sake we serve because He first loved us and gave Himself for us. In humble adoration we long to serve Him and if we can do that our joy is unspeakable.
We have often heard people say about various things; It’s not my concern, I want nothing to do with it. How sad if the same sentiments are echoed in our Army about the cause of Christ and the concerns connected to it.
What is God’s cause? What is God’s concern?
‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself. This verse sums up the gospel better than any other. And what God does we must do. We must reconcile between man and God, between man and man and between man and himself. This is the one business of the Christian. If we are not reconciling, we are not Christian.” (Dr. E Stanley Jones)
May we keep this cause, this concern ever before us as individuals and as people together.