2 Corinthians 5:10-21
After a brief welcome by convention chairman, Paul Moore (St Wilfrid's, Cowplain) Michael Herbert (Cosham Baptist) introduced as usual. We sang And Can It Be, How Deep the Father's Love, You Chose the Cross (Soul Survivor finally getting a look in!) and Above All Powers.
"Flattery is a bit like smoking - it does you no harm unless you inhale."
Jonathan described sitting in a service station and being unable to avoid overhearing a conversation between a couple of insurance salesmen. The older man was advising the younger on how to manipulate your way to a sale: from appropriate dress for the city vs in a village. Different approaches to take when selling to men and women. Physical posture - when to sit, when to stand. But it was all about manipulating people into notches on a balance sheet - not about serving or helping the customer. The motivation is entirely selfish.
Paul is facing critics who likewise have a warped value system. They are not preaching or working from pure motives. He explains 3 major motivations for mission.
1. We are loved by Jesus our Saviour 5v14
v13 Christ's love controls us. We are not driven primarily by a sense of need. Nor of guilt or a desire for fulfilment. It is love that compels us into action.
Christ died for all
∴ all died - ie. death to our old life
I no longer live for myself - ie. the centre of gravity in his life has radically shifted. Unlike a t-shirt design "Today is all about me," for the Christian today is all about Christ.
I live for Christ - ie. his life is my life. We give everything because he gave everything.
Or as the NEB puts it: "the love of Christ leaves me no choice."
What does this look like? e.g. A young Christian guy with a degree from Oxford working in Yakutz in Russia. An area with permafrost - so all pipes are above ground. Temperatures reach -60°C in winter. Why? Working with young people to share the gospel. "It's worth it to see them come to know Christ."
2. We are responsible to Jesus our judge 5v10
On Sunday, June 25th, 1865, unable to bear the sight of a congregation of a thousand or more Christian people rejoicing in their own security, while millions were perishing for lack of knowledge, I wandered out on the sands alone, in great spiritual pain; and there the Lord conquered my unbelief, and I surrendered myself to God for this service. -- Hudson Taylor (Quoted from A Retrospect)
The judgement is not of our salvation but of our stewardship. Have we done well with what God entrusted to us?
Building for eternity. 1 Cor 3:10-15 - which is clearly talking about Christians, because Christ is the foundation. The message is clear: how we live now matters - the judgement is practical. How do we use the gifts, time, resources available to us?
Two parables Matthew 13 - Farmer finding treasure; Merchant finding pearl. In both cases joy at what they had found enabled the reckless pursuit of what mattered most.
During the time of the Rwandan genocide, a Christian leader and his family, who were working with and caring for refugees, were given the chance to escape - but he responded "If I cannot share my people's pain, I cannot share the gospel with them." He knew what it was to use what he had well.
2 Tim 4:7,8 - we are, like Luther, to be primarily concerned with two days: today & that day. Jesus is our judge & he's coming back - our lives should reflect our belief that that is true.
3. We are sent by Jesus the King 5v20
How do we see people? (v16) We are no longer seeking to judge people according the distinctions of the world around us, like skin colour, image, ethnicity, social status, wealth etc. We are to see people through the eyes of the gospel - men and women who need to be reconciled to God.
How do we explain the message? v17 New creation: It is not an addon, an appendage or a boost. The closest analogy that Paul could describe was not metamorphosis, nor birth but creation itself. It is a message of total, radical transformation.
v18,19,21 New status: we are reconciled, forgiven and made righteous.
How do we fulfil the mission? (v18) We are Christ's ambassadors - not in a lofty sense, but a humble one. There is a combination of authority (we speak on Christ's behalf as ambassadors) and urgency (we beg).
What we need more than anything is the right motivation. More than strategies, plans or programmes: our greatest need is the motivation that flows from a fresh vision of Jesus Christ.
Nothing is more important for the recovery of the church's mission (where it has been lost), or its development (where it is weak), than a fresh, clear and comprehensive vision of Jesus Christ. When he is demeaned, and specially when he is denied, in the foulness of his unique person and work, the church lacks motivation and direction, our morale crumbles and our mission disintegrates. But when we see Jesus, it is enough. We have all the inspiration, incentive, authority and power we need. -- John Stott
We are loved by Jesus our Saviour; we are responsible to Jesus our Judge; we are sent by Jesus our King. Let's go.
The meeting closed with us singing "Jesus: be the centre" and "Be thou my vision."