Saturday, June 13, 2015

More than Motivation - 2 Corinthians 5:6-17

NEW TESTAMENT  2 Corinthians 5:6-17
So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight.Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view;[a]even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view,[b] we know him no longer in that way. 17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

I saw an advertisement recently – like most advertisements, I have no idea what they were trying to sell me.

A man is dressed in an academic robe and he is standing at a podium.  Before him is a vast crowd of young people in caps and gowns.  Their faces are eager and expectant.  Parents sit nearby, many with both a smile and a tear.

The speaker at the podium addresses all of them and says something like, “Congratulations class of 2015.  You stand at the crossroads.  Before you is your future.  Your future is filled with college debt that you will pay for the rest of your life.  You will be incumbered with even more debt for a house mortgage.  Credit card debt will overwhelm.  So good luck.”  And with that he sits down.

Man!  How depressing is that?

Yep, life is hard.  Good luck.

In the movie Rocky Balboa, Sylvester Stallone addresses his son and says, “Let me tell you something you already know.  The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean and nasty place and I don't care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life.  But it ain’t about how often you get hit, it’s about how you can get hit and keep getting back up that matters.”

Life is hard, and it seems that every where I turn, people are looking for something to motivate them toward an easier life.

Employers try to motivate their workers.  Presidential candidates are already beginning to get ready for another cycle of elections and want to motivate the people to vote, and to vote for them.  On television there are advertisements trying to motivate people to lose weight, work out and exercise. 

Go online and it is easy to run into these short motivational quotations.

These quotations are everywhere!
Things do not happen. Things are made to happen.  John F. Kennedy.

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.  Confucius.

If you can dream it, you can do it.  Walt Disney.

All good and wise sayings – they all have a point.

 Marie-Pier Charron is a Life Coach and she talks about motivation as something that everyone is looking for, but don’t really need.  What people need is something deeper than motivation.  Charron says that she thinks of motivation as being like the sap in a tree.  The tree needs the sap for its survival.  Sap carries water and nutrients throughout a tree.  Charron says that sap is essential for the tree, but “it’s useless if the tree is rooted in poor, unhealthy grounds.”

If you want to move ahead in life, Charron says, don’t just look for motivation – be sure your roots are healthy. 

As Christians, our roots are found in Christ.  Our motivation is found in Christ.  Our nutrition comes from Christ.

Paul, in our New Testament lesson, is struggling with being a Christian in a difficult world.  He is trying to lead other Christians to keep them motivated. 

But he doesn’t go for the sap of motivation.  He goes to the root of our lives.

“The love of Christ urges us on.”

It is a sense of being compelled by Christ,
Driven by Christ,
Required by Christ,
Controlled and constrained by Christ.

Now that is considerably more than simple motivation!

It is the very core of our being. 

The love of Christ urges us on.

Paul's teaching to us is that God engages us where we are, as we are, and begins to work on us then and there. In the verses preceding today's lesson, Paul reminds us of the challenges and difficulties of living the Christian life in this world. 

It is a tough life – filled with hardship and death.  At one point he writes about the process of aging and growing closer to death.
He says "We do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day."

But Paul is motivated by a life rooted in love.  It is not rooted in success, or accomplishments, or achievements, or the possession of things, or the adoration of others.  It is rooted in love.  Therefore, as Paul puts it, "We walk by faith, not by sight."

To all of this, Paul adds an astonishing claim: "if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation."

This phrase, “in Christ” is a phrase unique to Paul, and he uses it a lot  --- I mean, he REALLY uses it over and over in his writings.

Obviously it doesn’t mean one is physically and literally inside Jesus Christ, like some vaccination being injected into His blood stream.

To be “in Christ” means to surround oneself with Christ and His teachings in such a way that everything we do we do in the context of Christ and his teachings.  It means that everything we look at or read or hear comes to us with the influence of Christ and his teachings.

To be “in Christ” means the Christian life is not about grinning and bearing it until the end so all things can become new. It means we are right here and now a new creation in Christ.

Nor does being “in Christ” about awaiting salvation that comes after we die – we have a new life in salvation right now.  This is not a about "pie in the sky in the sweet bye and bye." It is about living in the Kingdom of God right now, in the middle of the Kingdom of this world.

That means the marriage which seems so dead-ended that divorce is the only alternative can be transformed, and you and your spouse can be changed and renewed in the process.

It means the job with no future is a place were God can meet us and create new beginnings.

It means that in a life increasingly suffering failing health flooded by despair and loss of purpose and meaning can be renewed to find hope even in the face of death.

It means that a life shaped by a trail of dishonesty, duplicity, broken or illicit relationships, can be the place where God meets you and begins to make you new.

Notice that the text does not say "If you are in Christ there is the possibility that you might become new."

It says "If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation. The old has passed away. Everything has become new."

Dietrich Bonhoffer was a pastor in Germany during the years of World War II.  He was an outspoken critic of Hitler and the Nazis.  Not surprisingly, he was arrested and put in jail.  During the last days of the war, he was executed for his faith.

Approaching his first Christmas Eve in the Nazi prison Bonhoffer wrote:  “I believe we ought to love and trust God in our lives, and in all the good things he sends us, that when the time comes (but not before!) we may go to him with love, trust and joy.”  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1971), p. 168.)

He said this in the midst of a life that would have led others to despair.  But Bonhoffer was a Christian, and as such he lived his life urged by the love of Christ.  He was a new creation.  He walked not by sight, but by faith.

The more we live our lives IN CHRIST, rooted in love, the more we can not only endure the troubles of this world, we can over come them and our spirits can prosper.

And now unto God the Father,
God the Son,

And God the Holy Spirit be ascribed all might, power, dominion and glory, today and forever, Amen.