- Sermon Notes
The Gift that Keeps on Giving
2 Corinthians 5:17-21
Over time, many traditions have been added to the celebration of Christmas and for many, it’s the traditions that make Christmas special.And there are traditions from around the world that are certainly interesting.
In Japan, the traditional Christmas dinner is Kentucky Fried Chicken.This is so popular that families must make reservations early to be certain to get their KFC on Christmas Day.
In Finland, they visit a cemetery over Christmas.Graveside candles are lit; entire cemeteries are lighted.Three fourths of all Finnish families visit a cemetery at Christmas, mostly on Christmas Eve. Special traffic arrangements handle the crowds.
In Venezuela, people go to Christmas Eve service on roller skates. So many people skate to church on Christmas Eve they have to close the streets.Which kind of gives new meaning to the expression ‘holy rollers.’
And of course, who could forget Christmas fruitcake?Which is actually a strange name because it is neither fruity nor cakey.In fact, the whole concept of regifting originated with fruitcake.It preserves so well it can be regifted for years.
One of the traditions of Christmas that our family enjoys is seeing Christmas lights. This year for the first time we went to see the Zoo Lights. Unfortunately, it was near freezing and we all went shivering through the whole evening.
Lights in the darkness is a good tradition because they represent one of the powerful messages of Christmas, that God sent His Son as the light of the world. But not just to the world, to each of us. To be the light in the darkness of broken hearts and lives.
1 Chapter 4:6-7, For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts – to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God – in the face of Christ. We have this treasure in earthen vessels; that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves.”
This “treasure in earthen vessels” is God’s gift to us. God’s presence is God’s present. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. In other words, don’t just celebrate Christmas, experience it. God sent His Son that we might be reconciled to God. And in being reconciled, we are transformed – made new – and that will transform our relationships as well.
I.Be Made New – in Christ
- Many Christians read verse 17 and become discouraged, saying to themselves, “There are still old things in my life that haven’t passed away, am I actually and truly saved?”
- The key to understanding verse 17 is in verse 18, “All these things are from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ.”
- If any man is –in Christ– he is a new creature because God has made him new and is making him new.
Illus – There are many so-called self-help books available “at a bookstore near you.” The problem with self-help books, however, is that they are self-help books.
John 15:5, I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
A. Every man in Christ is made new
- Notice that this applies to every single person that is in Christ. If you are in Christ, then you are made new. It’s finished. It’s completed.
- You might say, “What part of me is new? This is the same old body I had before. In fact, it’s still in the process of falling apart. How am I made new?”
- It’s true you still have the same old body, but that body is just an old clay pot, an earthen vessel. It’s made from dust and to dust it will return.
- How are you made new? You were made alive in Christ even when you were dead.
Ephesians 2:4-5, But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, made us alive… even when we were dead in our transgressions.
B. Every man in Christ is being made new
- Not only are you made new in Christ, you are being made new in Christ. They are distinctly separate things.
- God has made you a new creation. He has given you eternal life where there once was death, he has adopted you as a son or daughter. He has placed the treasure of His glory in your soul.
- But God is also in the process of making you new. This is critical because while it’s amazing to have the gift of eternal life, to be born again in Christ, we’re still living in this earthen vessel, our flesh, and it still gives us fits.
Illus – You could wake up in the morning with worship music playing on your alarm, have a beautiful time in prayer just saying good morning to the Lord, get in your car and turn up the worship tunes and then as soon as you turn onto the freeway and someone cuts you off, it’s over. You’re now in the flesh!
- We know there’s still a lot of work of transformation that needs to be done in all of us.
Ephesians 4:23-24, Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which has been created in the likeness of God; in the righteousness and holiness of the truth.
Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write this down, for these words are faithful and true.”
Illus – When we adopted our boys, they were made new in the sense that they had new names, a new family, a new future and a new hope. They had a new father that loved them, but there was still a lot of baggage they brought with them to be transformed.
The same is true for all of us.
C. Old things pass away
- The process of being made new means that old things must pass away. The problem with the flesh, however, is that it doesn’t want to die.
- What does it take for the flesh to die? Your soul needs to be satisfied with something greater. In other words, it takes life to defeat death.
App – Have you ever felt that you would always be a victim of your circumstances? That your course is fixed? That there is no way to break out of the cycle of failure? That the flesh would always have the last word? And that word would always be defeat?
- You can be transformed, you can be made new, you can be victorious, but this is what God does when the glory of His presence ignites your soul.
- This is God’s gift. Receive it, open it, and cherish it.
Illus – Growing up, I was thankful I was one of the youngest kids because it gave me a good view. I could see destruction all around me and I knew I wanted to be free, I didn’t want to see it repeated in my life. At the same time my mom made sure we went to church. My soul cried out for something better. God had to bring revival.
Isaiah 43:18-19 “Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it?”
- This treasure in earthen vessels is God making you new by placing His fire within your soul.
II. Be Reconciled to God
- Verse 18 – Now all these things are from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ…
- This is the key — these things are from God — who reconciled us to Himself.
- We were once estranged from God. There was great distance because our sin caused a great chasm between us and God.
Isaiah 59:1-2, The Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God…
- This is the story of Christmas, God sent His Son to reconcile us to Himself. How?
A. Our sins are not counted against us
- Verse 19 – God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.
- If He doesn’t count our sins against us, where do they go? The justice of God must be satisfied.
Psalm 103:12, As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
1 Peter 2:24, He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.
- If a person is estranged from God, there is a deep emptiness in the soul.
Ephesians 2:12-13, Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who were formally far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
B. God is pursuing you
- It’s one thing to be reconciled to God positionally, but it’s another thing to be reconciled to God relationally. God is pursuing you because He wants a relationship of love with you.
Illus – What do you do if you think someone is upset with you? You leave them alone; you don’t stir up the hornet’s nest. Many people think God is upset with them, so they stand aloof. But that isn’t God’s heart at all.
Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me.”
- This is the key to transformation. When you open the door of your heart, you’re asking Him to come in to transform your heart and your life.
Illus – Some people invite Jesus to come only onto that little square of linoleum next to the door. Or maybe they’ll let Him stay in the guest room. But He wants to come in and transform every room – even the smelly places.
- What does it take to open your heart like that? It takes trust. Trust that when He comes in and sees all the things that are dirty or ugly or smelly that He’s not going to shame you, He’s going to take hold of those things and transform them. That’s the loving nature of who He is.
- Trust God’s love that when He sees all that’s ugly or smelly or shameful that He’s going to transform it. He doesn’t say, “Wow, I had no idea. Now that I see what’s really going on in your life I’m out of here.”
- No, He comes in and says with the most loving, gracious, forgiving heart, “I see what’s ugly, I see what stinks, I see that you’ve been carrying all that shame. Let me touch that; I make all things new.”
C. Reconcile your relationships
- Verse 20 reveals something shocking when you stop to consider it.
- We are ambassadors for Christ. God asked us to carry the message of reconciliation to those around us.
Illus – In 1914, the world was in the midst of the bloodiest war the world had ever known. A conflict began as a result of the assassination of the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand. Austria then declared war on Serbia, Russia then declared war on Austria, Germany then declared war on Russia and invaded France through Belgium, so Britain declared war on Germany. Then Italy declared war on Austria.
More than 17 million were killed in the war due to a war tactic called trench warfare. You take a position, then dig yourself in at that position, then hide yourself in that trench. Then you shoot at your enemy from a distance; not coming in contact with your enemy.
The battle lines were drawn and not much was accomplished, but a lot of people died.
But on Christmas Eve, 1914, on a cold, frosty night, some lighted candles, others began singing Christmas carols, and the famous Christmas Truce of 1914 began. They came out of their trenches and met their enemy in ‘no man’s land.’
That night, they realized they had something in common. They wanted to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. Their common ground caused them to come out of their trenches and talk with each other. They ate food together, shared trinkets, and told stories. Someone brought out a ball and they played soccer. That night changed them. So much so, that the next day when fighting was to resume, they didn’t want to pull the trigger to kill someone they had just had Christmas with. Commanding officers had to reassign them to get them to fight again.
Commanders then came up with rules of no fraternization because you likely wouldn’t want to fight if you actually got to know the person you’re supposed to be fighting.
- We live in a world of hostility. I’ve never seen so much angst and anger and trench warfare in my life. The very fabric of our nation is being torn apart as people get in their trenches and throw ammo at each other, mainly on social media.
- We need to come together with a message of “peace on earth, goodwill toward men.” It’s pretty hard to reconcile people to God if you’re not reconciled to them yourself.
- Someone has to take the first step. Everyone is waiting for the other person to take the first step. Someone needs to step out and say, “It’s time for the fighting to stop.”
- What is the nature of the message we’re supposed to carry? What is God wanting us to say?
- God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. We are entrusted with the message of grace, with the good news of the gospel. He sends us as His ambassadors.
- Therefore, we must carry His heart for others. God is not asking us to tell the world that He’s angry. God is entreating through us. Therefore, we beg them on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God.
Luke 14:23, And that master said to the servant, “Go out into the highways and along the hedges and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, [a]he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and [b]He has [c]committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.