************ Sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:20b - 6:2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 26, 2011
2 Corinthians 5:20b - 6:2
"Jesus Loves Me"
Funeral for Jane Walker McCutcheon
One of Jane's favorite songs, a song she sang over and over again, was "Jesus Loves Me." This wasn't just a nice tune or familiar words to Jane. This was a song that touched her heart.
Why did Jane sing this song? Because Jane knew something about herself. And, because Jane knew something about God.
What did Jane know about herself? She knew she was an enemy of God. She knew that because of sin she was out of fellowship with God. To use the word of our Scripture reading, she knew she needed to be "reconciled" to God.
Jane is not the only one who needs to be reconciled to God. The Bible teaches that, because of sin, every person is an enemy of God. There are no exceptions. Every person is a sinner. Therefore, every person is estranged from God.
We see proof of this every single day. We see proof of this all around us:
Every 3 seconds - One property crime occurs.These statistics are just for the United States.
Every 5 seconds - One larceny-theft occurs.
Every 14 seconds - One burglary occurs.
Every 22 seconds - One violent crime occurs.
Every 26 seconds - One motor vehicle theft occurs.
Every 37 seconds - One aggravated assault occurs.
Every 60 seconds - One robbery occurs.
Every 6 minutes - One forcible rape occurs.
Every 31 minutes - One murder occurs.
Don't think, for a minute, this means only criminals are sinners. Don't think, for a minute, this means you are a "good" person if you do none of these crimes. For what does the Bible say?
(Rom 3:10-12) "There is no one righteous, not even one; (11) there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. (12) All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."I repeat what I already said: every person is a sinner and every person is estranged from God. We are born that way. Which is why we don't need to teach children how to lie, fight, get angry, be selfish, and so on. Children need to be taught all sorts of things but one thing they don't need to be taught is how to sin. It comes naturally to them because they are born sinners.
Jane knew she was a sinner. Jane knew she did not perfectly love God above all. Jane knew she did not love her neighbor as herself.
When there is no reconciliation in human relationships the result is divorce, single-parent homes, drugs, alcohol, run-away kids, the dissolution of a business partnership. When there is no reconciliation in man's relationship to God the result is worse, much worse: eternal punishment, the fires of hell, everlasting death. Paul says in verse 11, "we know what it is to fear the Lord" (2 Cor 5:11). With his Jewish upbringing and training as a Pharisee Paul knew all about the fires of God and the bowls of God's wrath. He knew that "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Heb 10:31).
"Jesus Loves Me." Jane sang this song with joy and with amazement. Because Jesus loved her, a sinner. Because Jesus loved her, a sinner deserving eternal judgment and hell-fire.
"Jesus Loves Me." Jane sang this song because she also knew something about God. What did Jane know about God? According to our Scripture reading, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21). This verse is talking about Jesus. This verse is talking about Jesus, Who from eternity is God. This verse is talking about Jesus, Who took to Himself a truly human nature.
This Jesus, Who is true God and true man, lived a sinless life on earth. Yet, when He died on the cross God treated Him as if He were the worst sinner ever. Even though He had not sinned against any of God's commandments, even though He kept all of them, and even though He continued to be sinless and perfect, nevertheless, without Him deserving it at all, God placed on Him the sin, the guilt, and the pollution of us all as if He always sinned and been a sinner, as if He had never been perfectly obedient.
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor 5:21). The Sinless One was treated like a sinner.
Why? "So that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21). Notice what happens: the Sinless One was treated like a sinner so that the sinful ones could be treated as sinless. Isn't this amazing? Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God's commandments and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.
In the Christian faith, we call this the great exchange. My sin is put on Jesus and His righteousness is put on me. Jesus suffers my punishment while I receive His reward.
Why did Jesus do this? Because He loves me. No wonder this was Jane's favorite song. "Jesus Loves Me." Jane knew that Jesus took her sin and her guilt and her shame. Jane knew that Jesus gave her His obedience, His perfection, and His righteousness. "Jesus Loves Me."
With all this in mind, Paul says, "Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20). Man is alienated from God. Only in Christ can he be reconciled to God. So, "Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20). What does Paul mean by this? What is Paul telling us to do?
Paul does not mean to suggest that reconciliation with God is up to us; for it isn't. What Paul urges us to do here is to accept what God has done for us in and through Christ.
About the year 1830, a man named George Wilson killed a government employee who caught him in the act of robbing the mails. He was tried and sentenced to be hanged. However, President Andrew Jackson sent him a pardon. But Wilson did a strange thing. He refused to accept the pardon, and no one knew what to do. So the case was carried to the Supreme Court.What is true for George Wilson is true for us. We must accept what Christ has done in order to be reconciled to God. This is what Paul has in mind when he says, "Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20).
Chief Justice Marshall, perhaps one of the greatest justices ever, wrote the court's opinion. In it he said, "A pardon is a slip of paper, the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged." And so he was.
"Be reconciled to God." In other words, we must believe, we must have faith, in Christ Jesus. And, unless we believe, unless we have faith, there can be no reconciliation; rather, there can only be the fear of God's wrath and judgment.
Let me ask you, do you want peace with God? Do you want to escape God's burning wrath against sin? Well, then, "Be reconciled to God." Well, then, believe in Jesus.
One of the tragedies that I face as a pastor is that many people say, "Later, not now." "Later, when I am not so busy with work. Later, when the kids are in college. Later, when I get that promotion. Later, when I have more time. Later, when I am done having fun."
But, you know, we don't always know if there will be a later. We don't know if there will be a tomorrow. In fact, we can't even be sure about an hour from now. "I tell you," says Paul, "now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor 6:2). In other words, be reconciled to God now, right now. Right now, if you believe, you can be saved. But tomorrow may be too late and then all you will get is judgment.
"Jesus Loves Me." Jane could sing this song because she did not wait. Jane could sing this song because she, by grace, gave her heart to Jesus. Jane could sing this song because she, by faith, participated in the great exchange: her sins were placed on Jesus and His righteousness was placed on her.
"Jesus Loves Me." That was Jane's song. Is that your song too?
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