Greetings Narrow Gate,
I miss you all and look forward to when we can meet together again in fellowship. As it looks right now, we won't think of reopening NG until after Easter. Until then, pray, pray some more, read your Bible, and keep in touch with one another. I love you all.
We began back around Valentine's Day with some important questions leading up to Easter:
1) Why Jesus? Why do we need Jesus?
2) What happened on the cross? We'll look at the cross from different perspectives, because different perspectives reveal different clues and results.
3) Who is Jesus? Really, who is Jesus? so many different opinions are out there, including many misconceptions.
Today I have been led to go to the book of 2nd Corinthians. Paul will be speaking, and where I begin today is purposeful on my part. Meaning this, understand Paul's opening phrase in today's context, as well as, in Paul's immediate context centuries ago. 2 Corinthians 5:13-21, we will begin with verse 13, again Paul is speaking here,
"If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you."
What a weird thing for Paul to say.
"If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you" Let's read this in the Phillips' Translation, verse 13 one more time,
"If we are mad it is for God's glory; if we are perfectly sane it is for your benefit." This version may help our understanding, but it's still a weird thing to say, isn't it?
Paul's context: My guess is that Paul's enemies (Pharisees, Sadducees, and the like) were asserting that Paul was a religious fanatic, a zealot, a maniac of the Way, especially after his wild and crazy conversion story: being blinded and confronted by Christ. Yet, for all his passion for Christ, his presentations of the gospel were always sober and reasonable.
Today's context: A noun that you will be hearing soon, if not already, Christian nationalist. This is someone who believes in Jesus, is conservative and evangelical, probably pro-life, someone who loves America, and they are assumed to be radical to the point of being out of their mind. Only the testimonies of these people are their own, not Paul's. Do not listen to or play the game of cancel culture. Here is one of their testimonies.
This is my testimony. You tell me if I sound crazy. I was saved in 1988 while watching TV. Who gets saved watching TV? I was called to preach at a revival by the Holy Spirit in 1992. The evangelist stopped mid sentence, to proclaim what had just happened, the Holy Spirit had made him aware of my call. I hid in fear the rest of the night and spent the next 16 years running from my call. Then, in 2010, I was at a crossroads in my life, asking God to show me that he heard my cry (while I was walking and praying). God, within just a few seconds, sent a deer, just a yard in front of me, at full gallop, from out of nowhere. I wasn't in the woods. I was on a sidewalk and two cars had to stop to avoid hitting the deer that crossed in front of them. A couple weeks later, again while walking, I asked God to make the connections for me to go into ministry. I had finally acquiesced to God's call to preach. Before I finish my prayer walk, I received a phone call from a preacher that I did not know, asking me, "I hear that you have been called to preach?" A stranger, calls me out of the blue. Am I crazy, am I mad?
2016-2017, my wife Kristi is diagnosed with stage 3 cancer. After chemo and radiation, God heals her of her cancer. Am I mad or crazy for thinking that? May of last year, Kristi leaves her car out of gear and out of park, the SUV runs down our driveway into a mail truck, pinning herself against the mail truck (which was destroyed) and had to be put on a flatbed to move. She walks away, albeit bloodied, bruised, and limping. God saved her life. Am I crazy? Two weeks later Kristi wakes me up at 2:30 am and says that she believes she is having a heart attack. We get to the ER, she is not, Instead its blood clots on the lungs. They give her the newest most effective medicine for this type of blood clots, for free. The cost for the year is $6000. When was the last time a hospital or pharmaceutical company gave you anything for free? Eliquis mails us her medicine for free. Am I nuts for believing that God is behind this?
September of last year, a man turns into me head-on while I am going 35 mph. It is as though I hit a moving brick wall. His truck grinds and pushes its way up onto my small car, about to drive right over me, decapitating and crushing me. However, something stops his truck just inches from my windshield and from me. I am badly hurt but alive. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit stopped that truck.
Am I mad? Maybe I have lost my mind? I can promise you this, I did not make up any of this. God did it all. This was all of the Lord's doing, this is my personal, heartfelt testimony. If I am mad it is for God's glory; if I am perfectly sane it is for your benefit. I'm sane, I believe, therefore my testimony is prayerfully for you. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, Phillips' Translation, Paul again,
"At any rate there has been no selfish motive. The very spring of our actions is the love of Christ. We look at it like this: if one died for all of mankind then, in a sense, they all died, and His purpose in dying for them is that their lives should now be no longer lived for themselves but for him who died and rose again for them."
Paul's context: The love of Christ, as evidenced by his death for us on the cross. Christ died for all, therefore all died. Because Christ died, those that believe, can now die to sin and live with the resurrected Christ. In response, those who believe live for Christ.
Today's context: Why should you not live for yourself? That's the world's view. But, as a believer, is my life, after what Jesus has done for me, not forfeit? Should I not live for God? Is Jesus death not still relevant? Of course it is. Do not let the world tell you any differently. Do not let the world tell you how to think, more so, do not let the world tell you how to believe! Follow the Spirit of God for all these things.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21, NIV,
"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly (flesh or purely human considerations) point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God (remember my testimony please), 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 peoples' 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."
Paul's and today's context: They are one and the same. If you believe, you are a new creation. If not, you are still of this world and the flesh. Everything is to be evaluated this way, as I've said before, everything is spiritual. Christ committed himself to us in his death, are we not then committed to Jesus in how we live? Yes we are, willingly, gladly, sacrificially.
We have been given this mission of reconciliation. We are to testify and share the good news of Christ. God is making his appeal to others through us, just as Paul did, and I am doing now. Is it not a small price for us to pay in that we implore others to Christ? What is your response?
Why Jesus? Because no one else would do. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
What happened on the cross? Jesus took our sin as his, died for us, with us, so that we might live with him. In return for our sin, he gave us his righteousness.
Who is Jesus? The righteousness of God. We exchanged our sin with Jesus, took from him his righteousness, thus enabling us to be reconciled with God. This is all of God's doing and Christ's sacrifice.
I care only of how the world sees me as in regards to my testimony. I want others to know why I believe the way I do. If I am considered crazy, so be it. But I know what the Spirit of God has revealed to me and I know what is Truth. And the Truth is not on the news. Truth does not come from Washington D.C., Brussels, London, Moscow, Beijing, or Tehran. It's in a book, a book that we call the Bible. It's all about Jesus.
Do no harm, do good, and stay in love with God.
and Harmony UMC