13 When God made His promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for Him to swear by, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” 15 And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.
16 Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. 17 Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, He confirmed it with an oath. 18 God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 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.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
I think it’s fair to say that we’re living in uncertain times. There is a lot of confusion and real fear in the world today. Many believe that we really are on the brink of the end times. If we read Jesus’ words in Matthew 24, it’s almost like reading a newspaper printed this morning: “You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 24:6-13) That’s scary stuff, but the truth is that every generation throughout the ages has been through the same thing. We might feel that it’s all beginning to build up to a climax, but we simply don’t know when this will all come to an end. So what hope do we have for today? Where are we to turn in such desperate times? Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is the anchor for our souls, and we need to be constantly reminded of the eternal promises of God.
Many believe that there has never been a time in world history when people needed to hear and claim the promises of God as desperately as they do in our times. It’s hard to disagree when you see what’s going on around us, from the crime and corruption in our own country to the poison of Islam and the terror being practiced throughout the world by this evil and warped ideology.
Uncertainty probably best describes the overriding emotion we experience in today’s world. So when we are experiencing uncertainty, we need to look at the things of which we can know and believe with absolute certainty.
The overwhelming emotion felt by people today is uncertainty, yet when we consider who we are in Christ, we can be certain of His eternal promises. This enables us to live our lives with confidence.
2 Corinthians 5:1 says “We know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” Paul was confident of his promised home in Heaven, and he held onto this promise, no matter what. In fact, in chapter 11 of 2 Corinthians he tells us some of the troubles he’d been through: “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-28) And we think we’ve got troubles…
Paul though, based his confidence not on any self-attained measure of success, but because he had received Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour, and that made all the difference in his life.
There is nothing like the stability and spiritual confidence in the life of a Christian who remains absolutely certain that no matter what life throws at them, they put their full trust and confidence in Christ. It is one of the most powerful witnesses to the grace of God. The truth of our own salvation can give us a whole new purpose for living, and today as we observe Holy Communion we’ll take a look at how all of this comes about. How can we know and truly believe that we are saved, and how should these things affect and impact our lives?
Just what is salvation, and how does it all come about? Paul speaks about the miracle of salvation in our reading from 2 Corinthians 5. In the most mysterious yet glorious way, the death of Jesus Christ means that a guilty world is declared innocent, provided of course, you accept and believe in Jesus.
When sin entered the world humanity died spiritually. Romans 5:12 says “sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” Adam was warned by God not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, but he disobeyed, and as Adam died spiritually, so did we. In fact, we are born spiritually dead, and separated from God. Yet in His mercy, and because of His great love for us God took on human form, entered our world and went to the cross to die as an atoning sacrifice for our sin. An atoning sacrifice is a sacrifice made on behalf of someone else in order to pay the price that is necessary. That’s the Gospel. Jesus went to the cross and died instead of us.
The moment you believe that truth you are no longer spiritually dead, but alive. It’s the second birth, it’s being born from above. Salvation is a miracle because a guilty world can find forgiveness in Christ, and this brings reconciliation with a holy God. In verses 18 and 19 Paul writes, “All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.” We’ve been reconciled to God through what Jesus has done. Reconciliation comes because of our salvation and our new lives in Christ. And this is all through His doing – not ours. As sinful human beings we cannot reconcile ourselves with God. It only comes through what He did. The wording in 2 Corinthians 5 is important: The death and resurrection of Christ reconciled the world to God, and not God to the world. This may seem like a minor detail, but it is important that we understand that we were the ones who rejected God. We walked away from Him, not Him from us. God never moved.
Paul puts it like this in Colossians 1:19-22, “God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Jesus), and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.”
Just try to imagine that for a moment. Because of what Jesus has done for you, God not only forgives you for what you’ve done, but He goes so far as to see you as holy in His sight! When you begin to understand that mystery – the fact that God now regards you as holy because of Christ, and when you apply that truth in your own heart and mind, you are able to live a live full of confidence and assurance, because of who you now are in Christ.
There’s this mistaken idea sometimes that God will forgive us because He loves us. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s important: God does not forgive you because He loves you. He forgives you because Jesus took your place and died instead of you. It’s the sacrifice of Christ that brings forgiveness and salvation. If God’s love was sufficient for our salvation, then every single person would be saved, and we would all go to Heaven when we die, because the Bible tells us in John 3:16 that God loves the whole world. But that verse goes on to say that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life. It’s only when we’re in Christ that we are saved.
Jesus became our sin offering. This is one of the reasons we come to share in Holy Communion regularly – to be reminded of the terrible cost of our sin, but also that Jesus willingly paid that cost. He took human sin on Himself, and as He hung on that cross the full fury of God’s wrath that should have been poured out on us, was unleashed on Him. We’ve all experienced pain and anguish in our lives, but all of human suffering throughout history combined is nothing compared to what Jesus experienced on that cross. Here was the Son of God, and what did His Father do? Because He is holy and cannot bear to look at sin, He turned His back on Christ. He turned away and left Him there to die alone, and that torture was infinitely worse than the nails and the crown of thorns. As He hung there Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And there was no answer. There was just silence as Jesus bore the full weight of our sin on His own. But if you will put your faith in the power of the blood of Christ, and will believe that He died for you, you will never have to cry out those words yourself, because He will never forsake you. That is one of the gifts secured by your salvation. God, by His Spirit will never leave you. satan will deny that. He will use every trick in the book to try and convince you that God has deserted you. And if we’re honest with ourselves we have to confess that even though we might be born again believers, there have been times in our lives when we have felt as if God has deserted us. Some of you may be going through that right now. All I can say is this: don’t believe it. It is not true. It is a lie from the depths of hell itself.
If you are a Christian, then you are in Christ. He is in you, and you are in Him, for all of eternity. Paul understood that, and this is what gave him the confidence to live the victorious life, despite his hardships and suffering.
Salvation is a miracle from God, because He makes it possible for us to be reconciled to Him forever. And the change is so dramatic that God doesn’t just make us better people – He makes into a whole new person. Verse 17 tells us, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come. “
As we know all too well though, the old self still fights the new self. This is a struggle we all face, but don’t give up. Stand on God’s promises. Ask Him to remind you of what He did for you and of who you now are in Christ, and He will give you the strength you need to live a life for Him.
If you are in Christ you can have confidence that you have a new nature, and therein lies the power to surrender more and more of your life to Him each day.
And once we’re able to do that, we’re able to share what Christ has done for us. The second half of verse 19 and verse 20 tells us what we’re to do with this newfound confidence in Christ. “He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
He has committed to us this message of reconciliation – He has passed the message of what He did and how He did it onto us, so that we are then able to pass it on to others. What is an ambassador? Webster’s Dictionary defines an ambassador as “the highest-ranking person who represents his or her own government while living in another country.” Now at first glance that sounds very secular and political, but look at it again. This is not our home. Philippians 3:20 reminds us that our citizenship is in Heaven. That means we are foreigners, living in another country. Why does God not just call us home the moment we become Christians? There are many reasons for this, but one of them is that once we surrender our worldly passports to Him and He transfers our citizenship from this world into Heaven, we become foreigners, but foreigners with a difference – we are now ambassadors representing our new government. We are ambassadors of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. And as ambassadors in this foreign land He has given us the message of reconciliation. Paul’s words to the non-believing world in 2 Corinthians 5:20 should be echoed by every Christian: “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
In the history of the Church, the apostle Paul is undoubtedly one of the most effective ambassadors for the Kingdom of God. This despite the fact that he had violently opposed and persecuted the Church before he became a Christian. Paul himself admitted that he was the worst of sinners, but God was still able to use him in the most amazing way. Why is that? The answer is very simple. Despite his past, and despite his circumstances and suffering, Paul had an unshakeable confidence in who he now was in Christ. He learned lessons from his past, but he did not dwell on his past or allow it to haunt him. And he did not allow the tremendous persecution he had to face because of his new faith in God to deter him from telling others about Christ.
Do you have the same kind of confidence Paul had? Do you truly believe that no matter what is happening or will happen in your life that God is always with you? If not, ask him to give you the faith you need. Ask God to remind you of who you now are.
We serve a covenant making God, and He does not break His covenants. Listen again to the words of Hebrews 6: “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of His purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, He confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Some of the struggles we face in life are public knowledge, but many more are very personal and very private. Every one of us here today knows exactly what I mean, and those things we battle against can erode our faith so easily. So remember Jesus. Come to the Table today and be reminded once more of who He is, what He did for you, and who you now are in Christ. He is the anchor for your soul.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read Matthew 24:6-13
Without allowing your discussion to degenerate into a political debate, discuss some of the emotions we experience as we look at the world around us.
Read verse 13 again. In which ways does your faith sustain you in these uncertain times? How has your faith been shaken by your circumstances?
Hebrews 6 speaks of the promises of God as “this hope as an anchor for the soul.” How have you felt the promises of God keeping you firm in the storms of life?
Share with your group a time in your life when despite going through hardship and struggles, you knew with an absolute certainty that God was very near.
Read 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
Webster’s Dictionary defines an ambassador as “the highest-ranking person who represents his or her own government while living in another country.” Discuss the role of Christians as ambassadors in the world.
In which ways have we now become ambassadors of the ‘message of reconciliation?’
There is no doubt that we live in uncertain times, so as Christians we need to be constantly reminded of the certainty of the promises of God.
One of the reasons we celebrate Holy Communion is to be reminded of what Jesus has done for us, and that we are now in Christ.
How does Holy Communion strengthen your faith in God?
Close by praying that God will help us to be confident of who we are, despite the uncertainty we see all around us.