Sunday, July 6, 2008

Why Do We Do What We Do?

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul discusses what it means to live our lives on earth in light of heaven. Some people are said to be "so heavenly minded that they're no earthly good." I've found that (on the contrary) the more a person understands heaven, the more good they do on earth.

The fact is that we were made to live in a perfect world (Gen. 1-2; Rev. 21-22). In fact, God "has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come" (v. 5). "So we make it our goal to please him" (v. 9), realizing that "we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ" (v. 10).

In other words, living our lives in light of heaven means doing everything in our earthly power (and the power of God's Spirit inside us) to obey him, to follow him, to please him. Heaven is where God's will is carried out perfectly; our lives on earth are practice for our lives in heaven. Our proper goal on earth is to please God through the way we live our lives--the priorities we set, the choices we make, the relationships we nurture, the lessons we apply, the resources we steward, the services we render--all of it should be done to please God.

"Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men" (v. 11). We know the benefit of following God. We experience the love and peace of a daily relationship with him--a life with every aspect lived under his direction and care--and we want others to experience it too. In fact, "Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again" (vv. 14-15).

The good news is a stumbling block in every culture ("foolishness to those who are perishing" - 1 Cor. 1:18). In our culture of radical tolerance and openness, it sounds narrow and arrogant for one group of people to be convinced about what some other group of people ought or ought not do. Yet, if we believe the gospel ("to us who are being saved it is the power of God" - 1 Cor. 1:18), then we are convinced that this is God's plan for all people. It is, in fact, what God made us for in the first place.

So, regardless of how it sounds, what others may think, or what consequences may come our way, the love that Christ has shown to us compels us, forces us, drives us outward to bring the great message of salvation to everyone who might receive it.

But how is this message carried? How is it to be conveyed? Paul tells us. "We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way" (6:3-4). What this means is that we make the gospel as attractive as we possibly can. The gospel itself is offensive and difficult enough; we commit to adding no extra offenses to the gospel for those who do not yet believe it.

Here are some of the ways Paul says we can commend ourselves to the unbelieving world around us (vv. 4-10):

  • endurance
  • self-sacrifice
  • hard work
  • concern and compassion
  • purity and a consistent life
  • understanding others
  • patience
  • kindness
  • the Holy Spirit
  • sincere love
  • truthful speech
  • the power of God
  • weapons of righteousness to combat evil
  • willingness to be misunderstood and attacked

Paul, in essence, says we must give up everything for the prospect of participating in the ministry of reconciliation that Christ has given us--the awesome privilege of "reconciling the world to God through Christ, not counting men's sins against them... We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us" (5:18-20).

Why do we do what we do? There is only one reason. Everything that we do at Pathway Community Church is about becoming a more effective reconciling community. That's it, nothing else. But it's helpful to acknowledge some corollaries that are included in this statement:

  • We want to understand our own reconciliation with God better, gaining an ever-growing appreciation and love for the person and work of Jesus Christ.
  • We want to be reconciled to one another, a community of forgiveness and love that models the character of God to one another and to the world.
  • We want to passionately break down every barrier that prevents any person from fulfilling the purpose they were created for, namely, to be reconciled to God.

A reconciling community is one that understands God's mission and applies it to every relationship, every person, every opportunity in life. "So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view... If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation" (5:16-18).

Why do you do what you do? Is it to become more effective in your life's mission? "As God's fellow workers, we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain" (6:1). Don't just receive it for yourself and the benefits you can get out of it, but let God's love for this world become your love as well. Let his focus become your focus. And let his cause become your cause.

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