A CHURCH THAT CONNECTS
2 Corinthians 5:11-21, 03/26/2017
Introduction: Robert Lewis in his book “The church of Irresistible Influence shares a story of how a suspension bridge came about on the Niagara River Gorge, “In 1851, many of the most accomplished engineers in the country thought James Roebling was out of his mind. That year, he began to work on the unthinkable: building a bridge over the Niagara River Gorge. Disaster was nearly universally predicted. There was the sheer mathematics of the thing: 825 feet across and more terrifyingly 200 feet straight down. But the distance across the river paled in comparison to the sheer power and rage of the waters below.
Across such a chasm, Roebling believed a train could cross. History was not his ally. Although greater spans had already been bridged, including Roebling’s own bridge across the Ohio River, the Niagara was far more difficult. No girders or bridge supports would ever survive the raging currents. The only possible solution was a suspension bridge. In England and France suspension bridges had collapsed under the mere weight of crossing humans, killing hundreds.
As Roebling’s bridge was less than a year from completion, a smaller suspension bridge collapsed a few miles away just five years after it was opened. Yet construction continued and Roebling’s bridge opened in 1855. The bottom level was for carriage and pedestrian traffic and the top was reserved for the Great Western Canada Railroad. On Friday March 16, the first train rolled over twice the weight of regular trains to test the bridge. Just a few days later, a passenger train packed to capacity made the journey from Canada to the United States. Because of his efforts, two countries which had been separated from each other were now connected.
These days there is a lot of talk about walls, but can you imagine what our lives will be without bridges? Can you imagine what life would have been like between America and Canada, if it had not been for those brave efforts of John Augustus Roebling? Similarly, we have another kind of bridge builder between man and God. His name is Jesus, He used the cross as a bridge to connect us with God. After his death and resurrection, he left behind his church a ministry of building bridges to connect people with God and with others. The title of this message “A CHURCH THAT CONNECTS.”2 Corinthians 5:11-21
BACKGROUND: What do we know about the city of Corinth and the Church in Corinth? Corinth was an important cosmopolitan Greek city located about fifty miles west of Athens. It was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire. Corinth was on a major trade route and had a thriving economy. Greeks, Romans, Jews, and a mixed multitude of sailors and merchants flocked to this crossroads. Corinth was known for its stylish architecture. By the end of the second century Corinth had become one of the richest cities in the world.
Corinth was a sin city. Degradation, immorality, and heathen customs abounded. There were many religions represented, even a temple with a thousand sacred prostitutes. Pleasure was worshipped more than principles. Yet God had a plan and purpose for Corinth so He send the Apostle Paul to Corinth to plant a Church among a large Jewish population.
In Acts 18:4, we read, “Every Sabbath he reasoned in the synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. Paul stayed in Corinth for eighteen months and a congregation was established. After a while Paul received disturbing news about the Corinthian church from the household of Chloe (I Cor 1:11). They reported that there were divisions, gross immorality, law suits between Christians in front of unbelievers, practical problems in living the Christian life, and marriage problems. All these and many more prompted Paul to write a letter to the Church in Corinth.
We will pick our story up from 2 Corinthians chapter 5. The Apostle Paul was writing to encourage believers to be grateful for their free gift of salvation, and to make a goal in their lives to please God as they await their heavenly abode, the presence of God. He made it abundantly clear to them that, the Love of Christ was the compelling factor behind everything he did or said. He also challenged them, that they should no longer live for themselves but to live for Christ who died for them and was raised again. He explained that two things were necessary for them to live for Christ. I. Regeneration 2. Reconciliation. Let’s look at these two words:
Regeneration: When we accepted Christ as our savior we have been regenerated which means a thorough change of heart has taken place. We have been given a new heart in the place of an old one. The Apostle Paul calls it in Vs 17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old is gone and the new is here.”
In Titus, the Apostle Paul explains how ugly our old life looked like. Titus 3:3-6, “It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously.”
I am eternally grateful that Jesus saved me from my old life and given me hope and a new way of living for Him. I am sure many of you can testify to how miserable you were before giving your life to Christ. Some of us sitting here may have never surrendered their lives to God, if so you too can receive forgiveness today for your sins and begin this new way of living. We were not only regenerated, but we were also reconciled.
What does reconciliation mean? It is relational word. It means the restoration of friendly relations. It is an action word which involves reuniting, reunion, bringing together (again), conciliation, reconcilement, rapprochement, fence-mending; pacification, appeasement, and peace. It is the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement. All of us at one point in our sinful state were enemies of God. Romans 5:10 “for if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his son.”
In Greek, a root word Katallaso means “to reconcile.” It was used to indicate the divine work of redemption where God taking upon himself our sin and becoming an attornment, establishing that relationship of peace with mankind. Christ brought peace between us and God, through his death. Christ died for us so that we might live a life of abundance. Living for Christ involves an individual regeneration and reconciliation. But that is not the end in itself, we were also given a message of reconciliation and a ministry of reconciliation.
I MESSAGE OF RECONCILIATION:
What is the message of reconciliation? It is the good news of the gospel. In simple words: God loves us and created us for a relationship. Our sins separated us from God. Sins cannot be forgiven by good works. Paying the ransom for our sins, Christ died and rose again. Eternal life to all those who believe in Christ. Life with Christ brings abundant Joy and eternal hope. This is the message of reconciliation that God wants us to share with our friends, family and everyone else that we come in contact with. So, that they too would have an opportunity to be regenerated and reconciled with God. How do we do it? It is through the ministry of reconciliation.
II. THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION
Vs 18, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” Let’s unpack this scripture. This tells us that there was nothing we did to be saved and reconciled to God it was all from God. Secondly, God gave to all those who were saved without any exception a ministry of reconciliation. Many faithful church goers often carry a misnomer thinking that only a few people are called for ministry and not everyone. While it is true that some were called for some specific ministry, for example people like Billy Graham, Benny Hinn, and Ravi Zacharias but all of us are given a ministry of reconciliation.
We Christians often talk about, Ministry, what does it mean? The Greek word used here was Diakonia. Which means labor or service which involves compassionate love towards the needy with in the Christian community. And also, every business, every calling, every job so far as its labor benefits others is also a service. In I Corinthians 12:4-5 we read, “there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them in everyone it is the same God at work.” For example, some are gifted in preaching, teaching, others are gifted in music worship, or administration, or creative writing, performing arts, or serving acts of mercy, and in certain skilled professions. Whatever gift you may have been given by God, it is not only for yourself but you may use them and get involved in the ministry of reconciliation. To bring people back to God. How do we do that practically? By connecting!
III. A CHURCH THAT CONNECTS:
We have been privileged, that God entrusted us with a message and a ministry of reconciliation. I believe that God wants us to be a Church that Connects. A Church that builds bridges. A Church that engages and embraces people of all ages, ethnicities, religions and all walks of life. A church that takes the ministry of reconciliation seriously. It takes all of us intentionally doing our part in spreading the good news. We seek for opportunities to both preach the gospel through our words and deeds.
Ministry of Reconciliation involves connecting, and building bridges with people that are both inside and outside of our Church. Yesterday in our vision retreat we talked about the importance of building relationships with people in our community. We recognized that God has placed us in a unique place as Hope Church with a clear mandate to preach the good news of the gospel to all people in Sharon and beyond.
Here are a few practical suggestions as we seek to engage our community. Firstly, seek to get to know your neighbors, know what is happening in our community, get involved in community events. Connecting with people in our community may foster trust and relationships. I know it is not easy, but we want to give it a try. Secondly, sign up for voluntary service, attend social public events, serve in community projects, be an advocate for social justice and racial reconciliation, do all these without any agenda except to serve and build friendships. Our good works will generate goodwill, which might open a door to preach the good news.
Thirdly, invite your friends, and neighbors for a BBQ, a movie night, or Ice cream socials as we do that we are sending a message of welcome and belonging. Fourthly, help our elderly neighbors by mowing their lawn, cleaning their basement, delivering meals, offering rides for shopping or hospital visits etc. There are over 5,500 elderly population ages ranging 55 or over live in Sharon. It is another huge opportunity for our Church.
Fifthly, invite your unchurched friends to our church related events:( Third Sunday Luncheon, Easter Sunday Breakfast etc). Finally, earnestly pray to God for the salvation of your unsaved friends, neighbors, and colleagues at work that He would soften their hearts so that they might respond to the gospel. My prayer is that Hope Church will become intentional in sharing the message of Hope and reconciliation to all the people in Sharon and beyond. May the Lord empower us to become soul winners by building bridges and through our connections. Amen.