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Worship Theme: The Savior calls us to be witnesses of his love

Sermon Theme: Christ’s Love Compels Us

The annoying alarm bell rang loudly as ever, filling the bedroom with a shrill sound. It wasn’t really needed though; Tony was already staring at the ceiling in deep thought. Lately his eyes had been popping open before the alarm nearly every day. But the alarm finally jostled him enough to get his aching joints moving. He slid into his house slippers and tied his plaid house robe. Without even pausing to start his Keurig, Tony made a beeline for his laptop. He couldn’t wait to check. Any changes in the Dow Jones? Any of his secret tip, under-the-radar investments hit it big?

You see, Tony was obsessed with these kinds of thoughts. Even that annoying alarm was programmed to be the Wall Street bell. Every day he checked the numbers. Every day he put in the backbreaking work which led to 80- or 90-hour weeks. Day after day. Week after week. Year after year. The thought of a happy, rich, and successful future consumed Tony.

That same morning in a house down the street Gabriella did not wake up so easily. The teen dreaded the thought of “doing life.” “I literally can’t, “she always thought. But her alarm went off, so her morning routine began. She immediately grabbed her phone and headed to SnapChat. “What? Only 3 people slid up all night?” (That means to respond to a SnapChat post.) She switched to Instagram. “Are you kidding me? Only 10 people liked my recent pic? I spent ten minutes trying to get that perfectly semi-scandalous pose right!” She switched to TikTok, but Gabriella nearly threw her phone when she saw that only one person had viewed her video that she thought was hilarious. Gabriella tried so hard. She posed and puckered her lips like everyone else. She went to all the parties (the few she was invited to, that is). She even compromised her morals to try all kinds of things she otherwise wouldn’t. Gabriella didn’t even know it was happening, but the thought of being cool and popular drove her every decision.

While Tony and Gabriella were doing their things, Tina had already been up for two hours. Tina had been sitting up in her bed furiously posting and Facebook the entire time. And when I say fury, I mean it. One shared blog or random website after another. “See, this is why this viewpoint on COVID is totally wrong.” One reply after another rebuking random friends and family about why these lives, not these lives matter. One comment after another about how the country is just falling apart because they’re not doing this and so-and-so is #notmypresident. Tina was so immersed in Facebook controversy every day that she hadn’t the remotest clue that anger and the pride of “being right” controlled her every thought, post, and click.

It happens quickly, doesn’t it? Certain things in our lives become completely all-consuming—consuming to the point that the compelling can become compulsive. All-consuming greed compels us to the point of compulsive thoughts about money. All-consuming obsession with their children can lead parents to become the most vengeful, spiteful helicopter parents you could ever imagine if any child, coach, or teacher should cross their perfect little angel of a child.

Do you ever stop to think about these kinds of things? Do you ever pause to ask yourself one really big question—What’s my motivation here? Why am I really sharing this on Facebook? Why am I really making that comment or reply? Why am I really shouting at the umpire at a little league baseball game? Why don’t I talk to my spouse like I used to, to the point that our conversations are nothing more than, “Fine. Good. OK.”? Why do I blow my top so often at the kids? Why am I so superficially nice to my coworkers but so secretly evil when I gossip about them? Why am I so convinced that I am 100% absolutely right about the election, about COVID, about you name it but all those people are morons and totally wrong? What’s my motivation here?

If we actually take time to think through the choices that we make— the things that we think, say, post, share, do—how often might we be left feeling utterly embarrassed? How shameful! How shameful that I let greed guide my life and control my decisions and even my gifts to God and his church! How awful that selfishness and pride lead me to argue with my spouse, always get the last word, and generally communicate like a preschooler. How deplorable that my online presence and interactivity are driven by a desire to prove others wrong, to expose those “other sinners” of the world, to disrespect whichever president didn’t get my vote, and to shame all the people out there who aren’t “woke” and don’t “get it.” I would go on, but I might be sick with my own shame.

The fight with our sinful nature is so real, and so difficult. And oh, how often sin controls and compels us! But that’s why we’re here, friends. Church is not for putting on your Sunday best to fake it till you make it, put in your time, and pretend you’re doing OK. Here, in God’s own house, repentant sinners run to the cross. We run to Jesus for healing and help for every ounce and iota of our guilt and shame that we bear.

And to our surprise and utter joy, despite what I said or did or posted in the last few days, week after week we receive from our God what we least deserve—love. Not anger or wrath or punishment. Not death. Not even hell. But week after week we receive mercy and grace and forgiveness. Why? God’s love for us in Christ Jesus. And it is that love newly received each day and each week in worship that can fill our hearts to such a degree that it will even start to change the way we live.

That’s what the apostle Paul told us in the second lesson today. Listen again to what he has to say: “For Christ’s love compels us, because 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.” Christ’s Love Compels Us. It controls and guides and drives the way we live. It’s our motivation for everything we do. Why? Because we are convinced of something. We have come to know and believe that, “one died for all, and therefore all died.”

 One person, Jesus Christ, as true God and true man died as the perfect substitute and Savior for me. For my greed, my anger, my pride, my selfishness. He took all of it onto himself to pay what I deserve and then rose to life to prove I have been given a new life and relationship with God forever. But he didn’t only do this for me. He did it for you. He did it for all. And so, “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.” Christ’s love is so unending and life-changing that it becomes compelling—compelling to the point that we would now want to live for him instead of for ourselves.

So, what does that look like? What does it look like to have Christ’s love compelling us to have Christlike love for God and for our neighbor? Paul tells us in the next verse, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.” Imagine how different our world would be if we all did this right now! Imagine not thinking of people according to a fleshly, worldly point of view. What if we looked at people and didn’t automatically classify them as white or black or brown? What if we didn’t look at their clothing or cars and classify them as rich or poor or successes or failures? What if we didn’t look at people as someone we should argue with because they are pro-vaccine or anti-vax, or pro-Trump or pro-Biden, or Republican or Democrat? What if, in every situation at home or work or in public or private we regarded everyone from a spiritual point of view? What if we looked at them as human beings with souls that Christ purchased and bought back from the depths of hell when he died to pay for their sin too? Seem like a figment of your imagination? It’s not. We can and we will do this because Christ’s Love Compels Us.

 Listen as Paul continues to describe the change in v. 17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” You have a completely new life in Jesus. Though we sin each day and each week, every sin is drowned in his blood. We are washed clean and wake each morning dressed in our baptism, in Christ’s love and forgiveness. We wear Christ as our robe of righteousness each day. The old stuff—the sin, the guilt, the death—it’s gone. The old has gone, and the new is here in Jesus.

And while this might seem impossible to us, we recognize it didn’t happen because of us. This is from God. Take a look: “All this is from God, 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 people’s sins against us.”

 All this change in my life is directly from God. He is the one who fixed everything. The fancy word for that is reconciled. To reconcile means to restore a relationship, like turning enemies into friends who are at peace. This is what God did. He reconciled us to himself through Christ. All of that shameful junk that we talked about earlier, all of that sin and guilt that separates me from God has been taken away through Christ and his cross. Though I was once an enemy with God, I’ve been reconciled. I’m a friend, a child, of God and now at peace with him.

And so, God has then in turn given us this ministry of reconciliation. We get to serve God and serve neighbor with that good news of reconciliation. We get to live in such a way and regard other people and serve other people in such a way that we love them just as God loved us. How can we do this? Why can we do this? Christ’s Love Compels Us!

And yet, the changes don’t end there! Christ’s love is so compelling that we don’t only serve others in love, but we also share the message of love. Take a look: “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.” Can you believe that? Christ loves me, Christ loves you so much that he didn’t only die and rise for us miserable sinners to give us a new life in him, but Christ also now sends us out as his own personal ambassadors. God himself chooses to go to work in us and through us every day.

What a privilege to be a Christ-ian, a mini-Christ! What a privilege that with a new life in Jesus, I can reorient my life to live on behalf of Jesus. Other people get to see Christ’s love in the way I conduct myself at work. Other people get to see Christ’s love in how I carefully choose my words and my posts on social media. Other people get to see Christ’s love in how I look for ways to unite instead of divide. Other people get to look at my light shining, and can begin to understand the Light that shines in the darkness. Other people see my love and can begin to know God who is love. How can we do this? Why can we do this? Christ’s Love Compels Us!

 You know, those Corinthians had a lot of problems in their congregation. There were factions and divisions. There was jealousy. Gross immorality. Believers so mad at each other that they sued each other. There was pride and some who thought they were better than others. There were lazy Christians and Christians who doubted the resurrection. What a mess! Yet are these issues any different today? Does Satan work any differently? Are these sins not repeated generation after generation?

So, what would Paul have to say to such people, then and now, after writing such powerful words about love? Listen to verse 20: “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.”

 What a message! Everything that I was and have done, Jesus took onto himself, and everything Jesus is and has done, he gave to me. I have a completely new life here and in heaven. So, Paul implores us, “Be reconciled to God.” Live that new life!

So, what if . . . What if this week, before you opened your mouth to reply you thought first about Christ’s love? What if before you pressed send on that scathing email or text you thought first about Christ’s love? What if before you share or post or reply or comment on Facebook or Instagram you thought first about Christ’s love? What if you paused before blowing up at your spouse or your children or your coworkers and you thought about Christ’s love?

Seem impossible? It’s not. All this love is from God, and given to us in Christ who reconciled us. And so, dear friends, live in freedom and joy knowing that Christ’s Love Compels Us. Amen.

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