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Christ's Love Urges Us On

October 26th 2014 by Joel Schultz

Today is the fourth sermon in the "Inspire" phase of the capital campaign. Read or listen to learn more...

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Capital Campaign Inspire Sermon 4 – “Christ’s Love Urges Us On” – 2 Corinthians 5:14-20 – 10/26/14

Have you ever been whitewater rafting? I did it once with my brothers, a couple of my sons, and some nephews a few years ago in Tennessee. Most of the trip was pretty tame with class I and II rapids. Even with tame whitewater the group on the raft is constantly paddling and making decisions of which paths in the river to attempt to follow. But despite the work of the passengers, it is often ultimately the current that pushes you forward and controls where you go.

St. Paul could easily have made a comparison to whitewater rafting in our text for today. When he talks about the Christian life in the opening verse, he is saying that for the Christian it is “Christ’s love that compels us”, controls us, and urges us on. We make decisions every day, but it is His love that shapes and motivates those decisions, and as we commit ourselves to “getting into the raft” with Him and moving along with Him, we find that we no longer live for ourselves, but for Him “who died for [us] and was raised again.” He sets the course. He charts the way, and we paddle along with Him towards the goal He has set.

Another translation says the love of Christ “controls” us. In fact, one of the reasons Paul wrote this text was that some people thought he was “out of control.” He wasn’t acting the way people usually act. In fact, some thought he was acting a little crazy. He wasn’t the same old Paul. He seemed to be a new person. And so he says in verse 13: “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us”

Something had happened to Paul. He had, by God’s grace through faith, participated in Christ’s death and resurrection. Paul says, “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.”

What happened to Paul, and what happens to us in our baptism, is that we become new persons. The old sinful person is drowned in the waters of baptism through participation in the death of Christ, and a new person arises who lives no longer for himself, but for Him who died and rose for them. In Christ we are a new creation. The old is gone. The new has come. The question is whether we want to live that way.

Being new can be very scary. The theme of the study we will be using in Bible class today is “Extreme Makeover: Whole Life Edition.” Most of us don’t want an extreme makeover; we just want a nip or a tuck here and there. The older I get, the less it seems I can do. Confirmation retreats and lock-ins just about do me in. Sometimes I would rather go back to the way I used to be: young and thin and energetic – able to beat any youth at any sport or event. The problem is, God never promises to make me young. He promises to make me new.

The same thing often holds true for congregations. They want things to be the way they used to be back in 1964 or 1982, when the Sunday school was full of kids, and mothers were home during the day, and people had a denominational loyalty that made them drive 20 miles to find a church of The Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.

But God doesn’t promise to make things the way they used to be. He promises to make us new. And that means He is able to give to us, as He has to generations before us, the ability to hold fast to that gospel and confession of faith that is ours as the people of God, while at the same time having the wisdom and courage to step forward in new ways to witness to that faith in a changing cultural context.

For the Christian, being new means we no longer look at the world or people the same way. The world around us is a hurting place and restless place. People are caught by fear, uncertain of their present and even more of their future. We have so much to offer them in living out the Gospel hope.

What urges us on is the love God has brought into our life. In the gift of the Son, God’s love brings out the best in us. We are in Christ made new. The sin that once separated us from God and from meaningful relationships with others is nailed to the cross with Jesus, and each day through repentance and remembrance of our baptism we rise again by God’s grace, forgiven, as new persons in Christ.

We are given an identity and purpose to be children of a generous God, bringing people back to the love of Christ through the witness of His Word and the love we show to them, living out our lives as His representatives in a troubled world.

To know that you are loved, to know that you are claimed, to know that God’s grace is real and personal, is a freeing thing. It allows us in the words of the old Army commercial, to “be all that we can be,” and to see our life, our time, our money and our resources in a whole new way.

As we were planning the three prong project (playground rejuvenation, sanctuary improvements, and a narthex expansion) behind our capital campaign, God’s love was urging us on. We felt called to get into Christ’s raft and follow the whitewater along a new way which would open opportunities to be the people of God as Christ led in new and exciting directions.

Tomorrow at 7pm you are invited to come to the Initial Commitment Event at BSLC. At that event, member who already have prayerfully considered their generous, sacrificial, impact gift to our Immeasurably More campaign will gather to make their commitments. Then on November 9th the rest of our congregation will have the opportunity to make commitments to the campaign.

The love of Christ urges us to look at all things in a new way and to live no longer for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose for us. We have a mission and a calling to be children of a generous God. People who know their mission know what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to when it comes to how they use their time, their money, and their influence.

People who have no sense of mission are bombarded by a thousand commercials a day asking them to say “yes” to everything from lottery tickets to sports cars to gold plated golf clubs. For the Christian, the giving of anything cannot be forced. If it isn’t coming from the heart joyfully and freely, then it is just fulfilling an obligation. It is just going back to the way things used to be. But for those who realize they have been made new in Christ through His death and resurrection, then all things become new, including the way I use my time, my money and my relationships.

I read a story about one of our district presidents who went to a Lutheran Church in Tanzania. He was awakened by singing at 6 am. He got up to see where it was coming from. He walked out of the hotel across the street to the Lutheran church that was overflowing with worshipers. Asking what the special occasion was, the ushers looked at him with surprise saying, “We worship every morning like this. This is how we Christians begin our day!” Is it any wonder that the Lutheran Church in Africa right now is vibrant and growing by leaps and bounds?

It is happening because individual Christians embrace the full joy of the gospel and in response see themselves as new creatures in Christ Jesus, serving Him in word and deed in every aspect of their daily lives. The church has often been called a sleeping giant, so much potential but only realized in a small percentage of its members.

What would happen if each person here saw themselves as children of a generous God? What would happen if each person here realized how they are given new opportunities to bring encouragement and hope to someone around them? By God’s grace, there is a great deal that we are doing, but by God’s grace we could do so much more.

And on this day as we earnestly and prayerfully start to consider our commitments to the Immeasurably More capital campaign the love of Christ once again urges us on as people made new in Him who no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose for them. Amen.

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