2 Corinthians 5:16-19
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Turn to 2 Corinthians 5:16. A passage we all know. But it’s about the magic of the word, the one word in it that is important. You will remember it immediately. “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
I think I mentioned it to you, but I certainly have in Raleigh mentioned it, the word ‘reconciled.’ And I remember it back when even Trish was in the office in Garden Court in the old days; we often had to do that with our bank accounts. It was important for us, especially important that our books were the same as Central’s there. Wasn’t it called ‘Central’? The bank was called Central. It was vital that our figures were the same as there. So every month we would do what you all do, you reconcile your bank account. You look at your check book and you look at the amounts you’ve paid out, or you say you’ve paid out. And then you look at their books and you find what they have recorded and you make sure that they are reconciled. And of course sometimes they aren’t, because sometimes you have out a check that they haven’t had pass through their accounts yet. Other times you’ve just made a mistake. And so your job is to reconcile them. And of course you know what reconciled means. It does not mean that you just close the book and say, “Well I don’t seem to be the same, but I’m sure it will turn out alright sooner or later.” You don’t do that, nor do you just put a pen through theirs and say, “Well, theirs doesn’t matter,” or put a check mark on your and say, “Well that’s it, done.” You don’t. You go down through it in detail, and you carefully check this check against that check; this check against that check; this deposit against this deposit. And “What’s that amount? Oh, it’s interest they are charging me.” And so you go through it in detail. And reconciling your account means going through it in detail and reconciling it so that you can explain each part in relationship to the other, each amount, each entry, you can explain why it’s there or why it’s not there. But it means that you come to understand it and then you are able to accept it. And you say, “Alright, that’s really the truth of the situation.” And so you reconcile what you thought was the situation with what is the situation. And that’s what we call ‘reconciling’. And that’s what this means.
Once we got going we did not just flood our lands with water that we had dammed up in a reservoir and couldn’t control. We didn’t just poison our water by putting high powered steam and gas in order to frack it and release the oil. We did all kinds of other things that destroy the place. So that we ended up with birds covered in tar because of oil spills that had taken place. But on top of that, we were cruel and thoughtless to each other. And we said things to each other that gave pain to us and created tension inside our blood vessels and inside our muscles, so that we caused dis-ease, we caused lack of ease among one another. And so when we started to live off the world instead of God we turned ourselves into monstrosities and in the course of it we spread chaos everywhere. We spread it in our bodies and our own minds. We spread it in other people’s bodies
and other people’s minds. We messed up the whole place, both the world and ourselves.
And our dear Father looked down and he saw that we were increasingly in a hopeless situation. And he realized, you have destroyed radically the good blood vessels and the good veins and arteries that I have given you. You have destroyed the peace that I made you in. Your world you have turned upside down. This thing is a complete and utter and absolute mess. And you all have no ability to fix it. And really that is what he did. Except that he didn’t have to wait to see it all. He knew what he had made and he knew that once he gave us free will, we would wreak havoc in his creation. And he had to decide, would he throw the whole thing over and start again, or would he, in some way get into it and trying to make this thing right? And that’s what he did. And that involved great pain in the person in whom he had put all of this which was his dear Son. And so he really trusted his Son to bear all this inside. And then by the power that he had in his Father to bring it all back into what it used to be. And in that way God reconciled the world to himself.
We often think, “Oh well, he just decided, ‘OK, they’re bad. All right, I’ll not treat them as bad. I’ll treat them as good. Oh, that’s them reconciled.’” It was miserable. It was a costly thing. It was a matter of detail, of endless detail, which he is still involved in. And our life here on earth is here to reveal that. Not to do it! The works have already been done by him. But we’ve to walk in them. It ties up a little with what we were talking about, strangely enough, yesterday. We’ve just to walk in that. But we do have to walk in it.
And that’s what I thought I’d bring before you: the two sides of our life here on earth. And I’ll show you where they are. They are in Galatians 6:14. Again it’s a verse we all know. “But far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
The world that does not go the way God intended has people in it who don’t like you as a sales person. It has people out there who don’t even like your jewelry too much. It has all kinds of people out there who really aren’t dedicated to making your life pleasant or easy. Some of them, in a funny way, delight in making you very uncomfortable and making life difficult for you. And all of that world God has already seen in detail. So this coming week God knows exactly the people that you will meet. He knows exactly the stores that you will go into. He knows exactly the corners that you will have to turn with your car. He knows all about the other people who will drive cars also, and any, particularly who will crash into yours. He knows all the people who are doing things that are meant or unintentionally result in harm to you. God has seen all those in detail. So you are not going out into a forest or a jungle that is filled with all kinds of animals and all kinds of dangers that nobody knows about. You are going into a jungle, admittedly, or a forest or a tattered mangled world of people that have all kinds of imbalances in them, but God has gone there in detail. And he has reconciled all those to his plan for you and me. He has crucified that world that is out, in every way, to spoil his plan for your life.
Here is what came to me yesterday when I was trying to write this in another LDR [Living Daily in Reality website], another segment. Sometimes the work that he has done to deliver you will be a resurrection of your body from the dead. At other times it will be your crucifiction with people sticking spears into your side. Yes, both have been reconciled by God.
It appears to us in our pathetic appreciation of reality, “Oh no. The resurrection! That is his reconciliation. I can see that. I can see the things that he has really solved; I can see he has reconciled those. But the bank account that won’t balance, he has missed that, hasn’t he? The blood
the spear is causing to run down my side, that he has missed!” No, no. He has reconciled that to. It is us. We look on the outside of it, and we think, “He has missed that one.”
So we wrongly and foolishly go into depression because, “That one he has missed.” No, he hasn’t missed anything. No, the whole world, in any antagonism that it has to you or hostility that it has to you, or any ill effects that it wants to bring to you, that whole world has been crucified in Christ by our Father. And that cannot destroy you.
Can it inconvenience you? Yes, it can inconvenience you. You may have a little Calvary Road to walk down? Yes. A little bit of a spear in the side? Yes, but it won’t destroy his will for your life, and it will not destroy you. And so it is absolute reconciliation. It’s absolute reconciliation. It’s every detail. It’s everything that could happen that would hurt you or that would prevent God’s will being done in your life. He has reconciled all that to his will.
You say, “You mean he will let that person hit me?” I think of Irene and her joke about the little girl at the dentist. He is doing the injection. He plunged the needle into her. And the little girl says, “I’ll tell my daddy about you.” Well he knows.
So he is watching, and he wouldn’t let them do anything to you that would harm you. So there is nothing of that world that you and I are going to meet this coming week. There is none of it that has not been reconciled to his will. And that is why he is at ease. It hit me at times, “How could he be up there? How could he be sitting watching all this at peace?”
And of course he is at peace because he has already dealt with it all. He’s worked it all into his plan. And we’ve used that illustration of the Indian carpet. The guy gets a wrong thread in there, and we would tend to rip it all out. But he doesn’t. He works it in so that it is built into the pattern, and you don’t notice it. He doesn’t take out the thread. He works it into the pattern.
So with God. He works all things according to the council of his will. So everything in the world is really in a sense designed. Everything that the world has designed to bring against you is designed by him to work in you the faith and trust of Jesus. Everything like that has been reconciled by God. And that is why you are able to hang on the cross with equanimity and peace, and to say, “Into thy hands I commit my spirit,” and to be free from the dreadful fear and doubt that grips you if you think that no one has dealt with this issue.
So the world has been crucified, and we have been crucified to the world. And that is the problem thing, that we at times don’t respond that way. We don’t respond with faith and confidence and relaxation. We respond with worry and anxiety. And we respond at times with anger and irritability. And of course it just confuses and complicates the whole thing. And he, himself, knows you intimately. He knows you in detail. He knows why you get worried. He knows why you get anxious. He knows why it brings pain to you. He knows the details of the way your silly little mind works. He knows the misconceptions you have of yourself and of other people. He knows why you make mistakes and where you make mistakes. He knows all that.
And he has reconciled all that to his perfect person that he made at the beginning of creation. He has reconciled all that to that perfect person. And he is in process of manifesting that in your life. So that there is no place for saying, “Why am I so anxious? Why am I so worried?” There is a place for saying, “Lord, you know what there is in me that is not seeing truth here. I trust you, Lord, to reveal that to me. I trust you to reconcile this in me that is not the way you made it
originally. I trust you to bring me light about this.”
And so you respond that way when you get irritable, when you get angry, when you get worried or anxious, when you get uptight. Then you look up to him and you say, “Lord, I know you know this, and you have reconciled this. And I trust you to show me what it is so that I can come into perfect peace here.
So in both cases, we are dealing with the outside world. We are dealing with the world that is intractable and that will not do what we want it, and we are dealing with the world within that is ourselves that we do not understand and we cannot change. Both of them have been carefully reconciled by God in detail. And all we need is to see how he has done it and what he wants us to do to understand it.
That is why I think it is important to see that it is possible to die well. That is what the old saints said, “Make sure you die well. Have a good death.” It is possible to die well. It is possible to see something in yourself that is wrong and to relax in it knowing that God has seen it, too, and that he is working on it and he expects only your confidence and trust and your belief in him. And he will bring it right through.
So I think it does simplify certainly our life here, that it is that two-fold working, all the time, of the cross. The cross is working all the time in our outward circumstances dealing with those and reconciling to what God has had planned and, strangely enough, or bewilderingly enough, he is working with our inward crookedness and our inward unlikeness to himself. And he has that in control, too, and is beginning to show us what he has done. So in both cases there is only place for peace and trust.
Let us pray.