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The Time Is Ripe for A New Vision

2 Corinthians 5:11-6:18

Jim Davis

Try to imagine yourself as a skilled artist. Most of us will really have to use our imagination on this one. I know I will. I can‘t draw a stick man without it being out of proportion. However, imagine yourself as an artist wishing to portray yourself, as you would like to be. What kind of self-portrait would you paint? How do you desire to see yourself?

Actually, this approach to life is more real than we imagine. We do have a self-portrait painted of ourselves. It is seen in the image we wish to project. How much time do we spend trying to shape what others think about us? How much money is spent trying to impress others? How much time do we spend worrying about what others think? Often, we let peer pressure shape our self-portrait. Nevertheless, we are the one painting the picture. Or, we are the ones accepting the portrait others are painting for us. We may not be painting our own--we may be only conforming to the image others wish us to project.

Why do we buy Nike or Armani or choose to drive around in BMWs or Mercedes when a Chevrolet or Hyundai will get you there just as quickly? It is because of the self-portrait we are attempting to paint of ourselves. Or because of what others expect of us.

It's something to do with the desire to impress isn't it? We love to impress people don't we? We love to think that people have noticed us. We like to be thought well of--so we conform. And the way we do that is by concentrating on externals. We all know, that desire to impress, that desire to be thought well of, it is has to do with how we see ourselves. It has to do with how we want others to see us.

We not only have a self-portrait made of ourselves. We paint portraits of what others ought to be or ought not to be. The story of Samuel anointing a king reveals how our attempts to paint portraits of ourselves, and others, fall far short of what God sees in us.

1 Samuel 16:6-7
When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD." But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (NIV)

The most beautiful self-portrait you could paint of yourself is one where you are standing naked before God. What we are is plain to God. God sees what is in the heart. We don’t have to hide behind our self-portrait when we come before God. We must see ourselves as we are--out of respect for God.

2 Corinthians 5:11-12
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. (NIV)

Paul was enabled to see beyond himself. Paul saw himself being reborn in the image of Christ each day. He experienced daily renewal despite his afflictions, as he fixed his eyes on the unseen Christ. (4:16-17). He saw what Christ saw in him. In doing so he saw something of eternal worth. This enabled Paul to see the possibility of the world being reborn in the image of Christ.

How To Live A Compelling Life

What you get out of life is largely based upon what you see in life. It matters little whether your life is filled with negative experiences or positive experiences. You view of life depends upon what you choose to see. How you see the world is your choice. You paint your own the mental picture of your world. Your mental picture of your world usually says more about you than it does about your world. It colors and shades the self-portrait you paint.

Paul had a compelling vision for his life. His vision of the world was the driving force in his life. He saw what others overlooked. He saw the unseen. It was what others overlooked that gave him direction. He saw the possibility of Christ recreating the world in the image of God. It was Christ's love that commanded his life.

2 Corinthians 5:14-17
For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 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. 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. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (NIV)

Paul wasn’t blind. He saw a sinful world. He was convinced that the world was dead in sin. He saw those only living for themselves. They were like many of us who try to keep up an image.

However, Paul saw beyond the pretension. He saw Christ dying for the purpose of giving the world a new perspective on life. He stopped regarding others from a worldly point of view. Now he sees the possibility of the world being created new in Christ--he saw the possibility of a rebirth in Christ. Try to imagine a world where each person chose to live for Christ. Try to imagine a church where the spiritually dead are raised to life in Christ, where members no longer live for themselves. They don’t just die to sin. They are resurrected to walk in newness of life. Imagine Christ's love compelling us to live for others.

Imagine living for others without even the slightest pretension to commend ourselves in the eyes of others.

Many of us feel like Nicodemus, "How can we be reborn?" We can't see beyond ourselves. We can’t see beyond the portrait the world has painted for us. We must believe that it is possible.

The world must learn what Johnny learned at Sunday School. A little boy came home from Sunday School and his mother asked, "What did you learn at Sunday School today, Johnny?"

Johnny replied, "Today I learnt that I have two dogs inside me, a black dog and a white dog, and they are always fighting!"

Mother was quick to realize the lesson being taught, so she went on to ask, "And which dog is going to win?"

"It depends on which one I feed!"

A vision of Christ’s love compelled Paul’s mission as an apostle. Paul's mission in life was to persuade men and women to become like Christ. Paul was out to reconcile the world to God through Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:18-21
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. And 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. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV)

Paul stopped viewing others from a worldly point of view. Here's the change "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" How do you see other people? Do you still look through tired, worldly eyes? Or do you see more than the world sees? Can you look past the surface of the persons self-portrait into a person's spirit? Can you see their possibilities in Christ?

Who do you see in our culture's celebrities - the movie stars, rock singers, sports heroes? What do you see when you look at an old person? Do you prefer rich or poor people? Would you rather have a man or a woman as your boss at work? Would you rather live next to a black neighbor, or Hispanic, or Asian, or an American Indian neighbor? Do you like to spend more time with attractive people, or doesn't it matter to you if a person seems plain, or even ugly?

We can see people through the eyes of our prejudice and stereotype them, or we can see them as people for whom Christ died, and love them. Usually we don't treat people either stereotypically or in love. Usually our motives are a mixed bag of good and bad. But our Christian aim is to treat people as the valued handiwork of God, people for whom Christ died.

A Christ-like ministry of reconciliation doesn’t come without great sacrifice. Christ paid a terrible price to become sin for each of us. "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. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:20-21 NIV)

Christ’s graceful sacrifice becomes vain if we refuse to make the same sacrifice to carry out his mission. It is time for the church to accept her mission.

2 Corinthians 6:1-2
As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. For he says,
"In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you."
I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. (NIV)

Paul left us his example to encourage us to make the same sacrifice for Christ. Christ is asking each of us to make the same sacrifice for others.

2 Corinthians 6:3-10
We put no stumbling block in anyone's path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything. (NIV)

How To Validate Our Mission

To validate the mission of the church there must be a fair exchange of the love of Christ within our fellowship.

2 Corinthians 6:11-13
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange-I speak as to my children-open wide your hearts also. (NIV)

The mission is to open wide our hearts on behalf of fellow Christians and those who are lost.

Matthew 22:9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.

Matthew 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

Mark 16:15 . . . Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Luke 14:23 . . . Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.

John 20:21 . . . as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

Mark 13:10 And the gospel must first be published among all nations.

Psalms 96:3 Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.

The church has lost sight of her mission because we have lost sight of the difference Christ can make. Do you know those self-portraits we talked about earlier. Is your self-portrait in the image of Christ or in the image of the world. Are we trying to impress the world as Christians, or are we Christians being impressed by the world.

Why do we wear Nike or Armani or choose to drive around in BMWs or Mercedes when a Chevrolet would be just as good? Is it because our lives are merely a reflection of the worlds value system.

To validate our mission in the eyes of the world we must live righteous lives. We must separate ourselves from the world. We must allow God to truly be our God. Not just in words, but in actions.

2 Corinthians 6:14-18
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people."

"Therefore come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you."

"I will be a Father to you,
And you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty." (NIV)

Are we trying to commend ourselves to the church through worldly values? Are we trying to commend ourselves to the world through worldly values or through heart rending service to God? The first verse in this section of scripture tells us why we should live commendable to God.

2 Corinthians 5:11
Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God , and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. (NIV)

The word "since" in this verse connects what is said in this whole section of scripture to what Paul wrote in the previous verses.

2 Corinthians 5:9-11
So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. (NIV)

Conclusion:

Are we trying to persuade others to come to God by impressing them with our self-portrait painted in the image of this world.

If you are, what do you have to offer them that they don’t already have?

If we want the "Lord Almighty" to empower our efforts with his Almighty power, we must allow him to purify our hearts with the blood of Christ as we follow his example of holiness.

2 Corinthians 7:1
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (NIV)

 

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