“THE GREAT RECONCILER” (Matt. 5:23-24; 2 Cor. 5:16-21)

June 3, 2018 10:30 AM
Rev. Jeremy B. Stopford, Pastor

TODAY’S FUNNY: “Hard Working Farmer” – in honor of this year’s “first cut” which was able to be done by the last week of May!
A farmer and his recently hired hand were eating an early breakfast of biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs, bacon and coffee that the farmer’s wife had prepared for them. Thinking of all the work they had to get done that day, the farmer told the hired man he might as well go ahead and eat his lunch too.
The hired man didn’t say a word, but filled his plate a second time and proceeded to eat. After awhile the farmer said, “We’ve got so much work to do today, you might as well eat your supper now too.”
Again, the hired man didn’t respond but refilled his plate a third time and continued to eat. Finally, after eating his third plate of food, the hired man pushed back his chair and began to take off his shoes.
“What are you doing”? the farmer asked.
The hired man replied, “I don’t work after supper.”

INTRODUCTION: This past week I learned about a really sad incident. Two good friends – they had been friends for decades – suddenly separated their friendship. Perhaps the reasoning for the separation was good, perhaps it was petty. In either case, it may take awhile for these two friends to patch up. And that “patching up” is what the Bible calls “reconciliation” – where an offended party is able to make amends with the one who caused the offending. We often say, “it will take an act of God to do that”. And that’s just what God has done for you and me. On this communion Sunday, let’s observe how this plays out in Scripture. PRAYER

#1 THE PRINCIPLE (Matthew 5:23-24)
* Note the context: v. 21ff talks about a broken relationship equivalent to murder; and v. 25ff talks about a wise judge desiring offended parties to try to patch up before the extreme – appearing before the judge.
* In the midst of that is this story about the prodding of God at the altar. What is the Lord Jesus trying to have done? A “change in attitude” toward one another. And that, in a nutshell, is reconciliation!
* Here’s the principle: in order to have true reconciliation, a true “change in attitude”, the offended party and the one causing the offense must meet. Together. One on one. Alone.
This can happen between two people. As we soon shall see, this can happen between God (the offended “Party”) and man (the “one causing the offense”.
* ILLUSTRATION: When serving as the City of Norwich dog control officer, I often wrote tickets for violations of the dog ordinances – either local or state. And in almost every case, the wise judge would ask both the one receiving the ticket and I, “would you take a moment out in the hall and see if this can be settled out of court?”. I believe he took that principle right from the Scriptures.
* Let me share from personal experience: what happens when an offended party does NOT reconcile with the one causing the offense? Usually one word (can you guess it?): “bitterness”. Whenever they see each other, they remember the incident. Or perhaps the one causing the offense has forgotten, or even does not know the offense caused. Reconciliation is an huge thing. So is bitterness. Which would you rather have, reconciliation or bitterness?

#2 THE PATTERN (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)
Let’s apply what we learned in Matthew to this passage in 2 Corinthians. And when we do, we will see a decided pattern – one which must be made in every heart in order for a person to come to know Jesus as Savior:
1. Identify the offended party (v. 16). The Lord Jesus is the eternal offended “Party”! He is often viewed from a “worldly point of view” and not from Scriptures. When we choose not the world’s pattern but the pattern of Scriptures, then we can identify the offended Party.
2. Identify the one “causing the offense” (v. 17-18a). Once again, in the eternal perspective, WE are the ones causing the offense! Ephesians 2:12 tells us that every man, woman, boy and girl who has ever been born is born without God and without hope.
Yet in the midst of that hopelessness, what happened? God initiated the reconciliation – the “change in attitude”; the eternal “patching up”! How did He do that? By sending His Son to take our punishment upon Himself at Calvary’s tree.
And every one who receives that Savior – the One Who did the reconciling – is called a “new creation” and “the old has gone, the new has come!”. That isn’t religion. That isn’t churchianity! That is an eternal relationship with the living God Who has loved us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3) shown in His sending His Son to die in our place.
3. Identify the new ministry (vs. 18b-20). What is the new ministry? The ministry of reconciliation! We are to be God’s ambassadors where He has wisely planted us. We are to make a difference before others. We are to show them Jesus, to show Him in that same world that is “without God, without hope”. And we are to point them to the One Who is the “offended Party” Who took the place of the one “causing the offense”.
ILLUSTRATION There is a ministry headquartered in Illinois which has been around for over 80 years called “Bible Tracts”. The title seems simple enough. But the ministry is based upon this one foundation: that God has promised to honor His Word (Psalm 138:2) and that His Word loves to change hearts (Romans 10:17). I encouraged you to look at the tracts we have – in the narthex both on the table and on the tract rack. Perhaps you will find one you can become familiar with and share with someone this week. Remember, you are not sharing yourself. You are sharing the Lord Jesus, the One Who wants to do the ministry of reconciliation through us as His instruments!

As we wrap this up and prepare for this morning’s communion service, did you look ahead and read verse 21? “God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
In a nutshell, that is what the communion service is all about. God made Jesus Who had no sin – the “offended Party” – to be sin for us – the ones “causing the offense”. And as a result, we might become His righteousness!
The Apostle John said, “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.  But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” (1:10-12).
Do you know the Lord Jesus as Savior?
Don’t you wish everybody did?

Close in prayer

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