Here He Comes – Reconcile!
SUBJECT: "HERE HE COMES" – 'RECONCILE'!
SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
TEXT: "How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)
INTRODUCTION: The Christ of the manager is the same Christ of the cross and the empty tomb, and to understand Christmas, one must understand the reason for which God came to be born as the Christ of the manger. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Thus, the true meaning of Christmas is found in the word 'Reconciliation'.
CONCLUSION: Have you ever noticed how many of the traditional Christmas carols are not merely preoccupied with the Christ of the manager, but rather with the Christ of the cross and empty tomb. Our Christmas carols are deeply theological – speaking of the great doctrines of the Church – especially the theme of Reconciliation and Peace.
SUBJECT: "HERE HE COMES" – 'RECONCILE'!
SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21
TEXT: "How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)
INTRODUCTION: Soon we will be engulfed in the Christmas rush – buying presents, decorating our homes, serving company meals, playing Christmas carols, window shopping, writing Christmas cards to old and new friends, attending Christmas programs, making candy, and perhaps going to the mountains to pick out that special tree, and many, many more activities.
Christmas time is a time when many hearts are opened to give, when those same hearts are seemingly closed the rest of the time of the year. It is a time of glee, anticipation, surprises, gifts, and gladness – and rightfully it should be! Christmas brings happiness to many unfortunate children who are often overlooked most of the time. Perhaps there will be more giving at Christmas time than at any other time during the year, even by people who are usually greedy and grasping.
Amidst all of the activity of Christmas season, there is always the possibility of getting our eyes on the glitter instead of on the grace, to get our eyes on gadgets instead of on God, to get our eyes on the commercialization instead of on the Christ.
PROPOSITION: We can only truly understand the meaning of Christmas as it is inseparably connected with Easter. The Christ of the manager is the same Christ of the cross and the empty tomb, and to understand Christmas, one must understand the reason for which God came to be born as the Christ of the manger. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Thus, the true meaning of Christmas is found in the word 'Reconciliation'. Christ came to reconcile sinners to Himself, and if we are to enter into the true spirit of Christmas, we must enter into the spirit of reconciliation with God and man.
I. Possibility Of Reconciliation.
Man was created in God's own image, and as such was made only for greatness and fellowship. Man had blessed communion with his Creator. He was meant to enjoy God's presence forever. Innocence, uprightness, strength, and obedience characterized man's beginning. God gave man superior intelligence, and permitted him to subdue the earth. Man's body was strong, his mind superb, his spirit unblemished.
However, man lost his greatness. Man fell from splendor to despair, from the beauty of perfection to the vileness of distortion, from the joy of fellowship to the anguish of separation, from the freedom of innocency to the bondage of guilt, from health to weakness, from life to death. Man is estranged, haunted by loneliness and paralyzed by fear. He is alienated from God, from his fellow man, and from himself.
Paul taught that all of humanity indulged in sin and that the blanket wrath of God covered mankind. Says Paul, "We all… followed the impulses and imaginations of our evil nature, being in fact under the wrath of God by nature, like everyone else." (Ephesians 2:3, Phillips)
Man fell from God and is under the wrath of God. However, man is heaven-starved and in need of forgiveness and restoration and reconciliation.
"And Here at last we find Strict diagnosis of our malady, Which is, in short, that man is heaven-starved Men are born thirsting for infinity."
(Abundant Living, page 95)
Christ's coming and His eventual death made possible man's reconciliation to God. "It was through what his Son did that God cleared a path for everything to come to him – all things in heaven and on earth – for Christ's death on the cross has made peace with God for all by his blood. This includes you who were once so far away from God. You were his enemies and hated him and were separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through the death on the cross of his own human body, and now as a result Christ has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are standing there before him with nothing left against you – nothing left that he could even chide you for: the only condition is that you fully believe the Truth, standing in it steadfast and firm, strong in the Lord, convinced of the Good News that Jesus died for you, and never shifting from trusting him to save you. This is the wonderful news that came to each of you and is now spreading all over the world. And I Paul, have the joy of telling it to others." (Colossians 1:20-23, Living Bible)
Christ makes it possible for man to be at one with God. "When William Tyndale was translating the New Testament into English, he encountered great difficulty in finding a word big enough to convey the meaning of the redeeming work of Christ. Finding no adequate word, Tyndale joined two simple words – 'at' and 'onement', thus making 'atonement' and giving in its etymology a clue to the Bible's teaching of salvation by reconciliation. In Christ's death on the cross, God and man, who had been severed by sin, were brought together by the cross." (World Aflame; Billy Graham; pg. 116)
Man must face the fact of his estrangement and acknowledge that he can only be at one with God through faith and repentance. The object of man's faith is Christ who objectively accomplished man's reconciliation on the Cross. The meaning of man's repentance lies in his denial at attempts of self-reconciliation, and genuine sorrow for his sin.
"E. Stanley Jones has told a story of a little boy who stood before a picture of his absent father, and then turned to his mother and said wistfully, 'I wish Father would step out of the picture.'" (Sangster's Special-Day Sermons; page 17). The true meaning of Christmas is found in the fact that the God who rules this vast universe has stepped out of the universe to dwell upon this little, insignificant, sin-infested plant and lived and died for man, in order that sinners might be reconciled to the Father. The erring child may be reconciled. That is the true meaning of Christmas.
Have you repented and accepted Christ's offer of reconciliation? Remember, "All who trust him – God's Son – to save them have eternal life; those who don't believe and obey him shall never see heaven, but the wrath of God remains upon them." (John 3:36, Living Bible)
The meaning of Christmas is found in the fact that man must be reconciled to God. But also the meaning of Christmas is found in the fact that man must be reconciled to man. The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of reconciliation – man with God and man with man. To overlook either fact is to lose the spirit of Christmas. The angels praised God on the night of Jesus' birth, and announced the purpose of Christ's coming into the world: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." One cannot truly enjoy the spirit of Christmas and at the same time have ill will toward his fellow man.
The spirit of Christmas means the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. Christmas is a time of calling all men everywhere to be reconciled to God, and also a time for calling all believers to be reconciled to their fellow believers. The call of Christmas is the call to forgive and to be reconciled.
II. Necessity Of Reconciliation
A. Because Of The Possibility Of Sinning Against Each Other.
This problem of differences arising between fellow Christians is not new. Paul dealt with this problem in the Church at Philippi, as well as several other Churches. Wrote Paul to the Philippian Church: "And now I want to plead with those two dear women, Euodias and Synthche. Please, please, with the Lord's help, quarrel no more – befriends again. And I ask you, my true teammate, to help these women, for they worked side by side with me in telling
the Good News to others; and they worked with Clement, too, and the rest of my fellow workers whose names are written in the Book of Life." (Philippians 4:2-3)
Jesus gave clear instructions as to what to do in cases between brothers who are divided: "So if you are standing before the altar in the Temple, offering a sacrifice to God, and suddenly remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar and go and apologize and be reconciled to him, and then come and offer your sacrifice to God." (Matthew 5:23, Living Bible)
B. Because Of the Fact of Misunderstandings in Human Relationships.
We need each other's forgiveness because we are very fallible human beings. One cause of misunderstanding among Christians is faulty judgment. The most sanctified Christian is subject to errors in judgment. With the best of intentions, a Christian can blunder and falter. Much misunderstanding among Christians is caused, however, because Christians make hasty judgments without sufficient knowledge even to form a judgment. What a different world this would be if we were very slow to form judgments about others.
"Has God deserted Heaven, And left it up to you, To judge if this or that is right, And what each one should do?
I think He's still in business, And knows when to wield the rod, So when you're judging others, Just remember, you're not - God."
(God's Psychiatry; page 116)
Christians sometimes expect more of people than what God Himself expects of them. Many Christians have pronounced judgments upon people, only to find out later that such judgments were unjust and the cause of much humiliation. How often we misinterpret someone's action, facial expression, or overheard conversation. God help us to admit that we are sometimes faulty in our judgment.
Sharp differences in opinions sometimes sever strong-willed Christians. The contention between Paul and Barnabas was so great that they parted company. Christians oftentimes differ in outlook, tastes, and opinions, and from this alone, misunderstandings arise. It is very easy to talk, but often hard to listen.
It is easy to be so convinced that one is right in his views, that he becomes closed-minded even to the suggestions or opinions of other Christians. The clash of strong-willed opinions often times breeds misunderstanding.
C. Because Continued Divine Fellowship and Forgiveness Is Granted On The Basis Of Ability To Forgive In Human Relationships.
Jesus made this truth clear in His Sermon on the Mount. He taught us to pray, "… and forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us." Jesus further said, "Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, he will not forgive you." (Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14-15)
D. Because Bitterness And Resentment Grieves The Holy Spirit And Destroys Fellowship Between Christians.
"Don't cause the Holy Spirit sorrow by the way you live … Stop being mean, bad-tempered and angry. Quarreling, harsh words, and dislike of others should have no place in your lives. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ." (Ephesians 4:30 a, Ephesians 4:31, Ephesians 4:32, Living Bible)
"Since you have been chosen by God who has given you this new kind of life, and because of his deep love and concern for you, you should practice tenderhearted mercy and kindness to others. Don't worry about making a good impression on them but be ready to suffer quietly and patiently. Be gentle and ready to forgive; never hold grudges. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." (Colossians 3:12-13, Living Bible)
III. Steps To Human Reconciliation
A. A Christian Must Seek to Understand the Motives for People's Behavior.
A Christian must seek to understand the motives for people's behavior. How much easier it would be to forgive our fellow men, if we would seek better to understand the motives for their behavior. Impoliteness may be caused by worry or pain. Suspicion may be caused by misinformation. Impatience may be caused by bad nerves. James Fraser, a missionary who worked hard and prayed intensely for his people, one day lost his temper in the presence of the very people to whom he was ministering. His problem was not primarily spiritual; his problem was physical. He had worked so hard and had prayed so long that he had failed to get sufficient exercise and fresh air. To understand the cause for one's behavior is to be aided in developing the forgiving spirit. How much easier it would be to forbear with one another, if we sought to
understand the personality make-up and the behavioral motives of those with whom we differ.
B. A Christian Must Seek To Appreciate Differences In People's Temperaments And Backgrounds.
Each of us is unique and is born with differing temperaments that we will have the rest of our lives. People judge one another with such statements as these: "He's too progressive or he's too slow to change"; "He's too liberal or he's too conservative;" "He's too emotional or he's too staid"; "He's too visionary or he's too practical"; He's too talkative or he's too quiet"; "He's too active or he's too passive." These judgmental statements are made on the basis of one's own temperament or one's own background. It would be much easier to accept or to forgive one another, if we all learned to accept each other's differing temperaments and each other's differing backgrounds. Learn to give and take. Learn to appreciate that which is different from you.
C. A Christian Must Hold No Secret Criticisms Of Another.
E. Stanley Jones has a motto: "Fellowship is based on confidence; secret criticism breaks that confidence; therefore we will renounce all secret criticism." He further says, "If there is no outer criticism, then we know there is no inner criticism: so the fellowship is relaxed and unrestrained. We must welcome the mutual helpfulness of constructive criticism, for 'the best of us are only Christians in the making. ' If we are afraid of criticism we are living on the defensive, living by fear rather than by faith. Let us lower the barriers and welcome the worst and we will probably find the best!" (Abundant Living, E. S. Jones, pg. 268)
D. Remember That At The Basis Of Most Resentment Is A Touchy, Unsurrendered Self.
"The fact that we have been able to hold the resentment shows that there is a self that is oversensitive because Unsurrendered to the will of God." (E. S. Jones, Abundant Living, pg. 60)
E. Raise The Question With Yourself As To Whether Your Resentments Aren't Rooted In Imaginary Slights, Insults, And Wrongs.
"A self-centered person can image a group is talking about him when that group is talking about everything else but; he can read into actions and statements meanings never intended; he can go around with a suspicious, looking-for-slights attitudes, and will find imaginary ones a plenty." "Remember that 'when you go around with a chip on your shoulder, the chip is probably from the block above.'" (Ibid; pg.60)
F. Every Time When The Name Of The Person Against Whom You Are Tempted To Hold A Resentment Is Presented To Your Mind, Breathe A Prayer For Them.
G. Say Everything Good You Can About The Person Or Persons With Whom You Are Unfriendly.
H. When You Do Have To Speak Of The Faults Of A Person, Don't Say, 'I Don't Like That Person'. Rather, Say, 'I Don't Like Certain Things In That Person, And They Are These.'
I. Remember That Fastening Upon Other People's Faults Is Usually A Defense – Mechanism.
"By doing so you are probably attempting to lift yourself up by pushing them down. It won't succeed. In mentally picking flaws in others you create a worse flaw in yourself – you become a sensitive, critical person, like the thing you habitually center upon.
J. If There Is A Sudden Flare-Up And A Consequent Breakdown In Relationships, Get Into The Habit Of Settling Disagreements At Once. (E.S. Jones)
"Most misunderstandings could be dissolved by quick action. If you let them go they fester." (Ibid; 268) Barclay says, "Again and again it is the experience of life that, if a quarrel, or a difference, or a dispute is not healed immediately, it can go on breeding worse and worse trouble as time goes on. Bitterness breeds bitterness. It has often happened that a quarrel between two people has descended to their families, and has been inherited by future generations, and has in the end succeeded in splitting a Church or a society in two. If at the very beginning one of the parties had had the grace to apologize or to admit fault, a very grievous situation need never have arisen. If ever we are at variance with someone else, we must get the situation put right straight away. It may mean that we must be humble enough to confess that we were wrong and to make apology; it may mean that, even if we were in the right, we have to take the first step towards healing the breach. When personal relations go wrong, in nine cases out of ten immediate action will mend them; but if that immediate action is not taken, they will continue to deteriorate, and the bitterness will spread in an ever-widening circle." (Barclay's Matthew, pages 142, 143)
(All of the points in this last Section of the message are taken from E. Stanley Jones in his book 'Abundant Living'.)
K. Be Inwardly 'Too Glad And Too Great' To be The Enemy Of Any Man.
"Be so preoccupied with good will that you haven't room for ill will Dr. George Carver, the great Negro scientist and saint, has risen to fame through his classical discoveries and service to the farmers of the South. Someone asked him to reveal the name of the university which had accepted him as a student and then, on discovering he was a Negro, had refused him admittance. Dr. Carver consistently refused to tell, passing the incident off as nothing. He had what somebody called 'the peace that passeth not only all understanding, but all misunderstanding.' Someone said to me (Jones), 'I don't think you know when you are insulted'. I replied, 'I am not looking for insults and so don't see them'." (Ibid; 63)
CONCLUSION: Christmas time is a time when peace ought to reign between God and man and between man and man, especially in the Church – "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3, Living Bible)
Have you ever noticed how many of the traditional Christmas carols are not merely preoccupied with the Christ of the manager, but rather with the Christ of the cross and empty tomb? Our Christmas carols are deeply theological – speaking of the great doctrines of the Church – especially the theme of Reconciliation and Peace.
IT CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR
Still thro' the cloven skies they come, With peaceful wings unfurled, And still their heavenly music floats O'er all the weary world: Above its sad and lowly plains They bend on hovering wing, And ever O'er its Babel sounds The blessed angels sing.
For lo! The days are hastening on, By prophet bards foretold, When with the ever circling years Comes round the age of gold; When peace shall over all the earth Its ancient splendors fling, And the whole world sends back the song Which now the angels sing.
WHILE SHEPHERDS WATCHED THEIR FLOCKS BY NIGHT
"All glory be to God on high, And to the earth be peace: Good will henceforth, from heaven to men, Begin and never cease!"
HARK! WHAT MEAN THOSE HOLY VOICES
Peace on earth, good will from heaven, Reaching far as man is found: Souls redeemed and sins forgiven! Loud our golden harps shall sound.
I HEARD THE BELLS ON CHRISTMAS DAY
I heard the bells on Christmas Day Their old familiar carols play, And wild and sweet the words repeat Of peace on earth, good will to man.
HARK! THE HERALD ANGELS SING
Hark! The herald angels sing, "Glory to the newborn King; Peace on earth, and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled!" Hail the heaven born Prince of Peace! Hail the Son of Righteousness! Light and life to all he brings, Risen with healing in His wings.
O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM
For Christ is born of Mary, And gathered all above, While mortals sleep, the Angels keep Their watch of wondering love. O morning stars, together Proclaim the holy birth, And praises sing to God the King And peace to men on earth!
GLORY TO GOD IN THE HIGHEST
Hark! The cherubic armies shout, And glory leads the song: Goodwill and peace are heard throughout The harmonious heavenly throng. With Joy the chorus we repeat, "Glory to God on high!" Goodwill and peace are now complete, Jesus was born to die.
PEACE ON EARTH – GOODWILL TO MEN
Peace on earth, Goodwill from heaven, Reaching far as man is found: Souls redeemed and sins forgiven! Loud our golden harps shall sound.
Let us meditate often on the truth of our great text: "How true it is, and how I long that everyone should know it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." (1 Timothy 1:15)
During the Christmas Season, have you ever felt the 'pull of temptation' in your own life, as described in the following statement? "Amidst all of the activity of Christmas season, there is always the possibility of getting our eyes on the glitter instead of on the grace, to get our eyes on gadgets instead of on God, to get our eyes on the commercialization instead of on the Christ."
Explain what is meant by the following statement: "We can only truly understand the meaning of Christmas as it is inseparably connected with Easter."
As Mankind, as represented by Adam and Eve, fell into sin through disobedience to God's command, what consequence did this "Fall" have in terms of human interpersonal relationships?
Because of Christ's death on the cross, what has God made possible for every human being, in terms of interpersonal relationships? (Note Colossians 1:20-23)
What is the basic meaning of the word 'Atonement'?
What must a person do, in order for him or for her to be reconciled to God? (Note John 3:16, John 3:36)
Tell to what degree you agree with the following statements: "The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of reconciliation – man with God and man with man. To overlook either fact is to lose the spirit of Christmas."
Is it possible for a professing Christian to be "at odds" (feeling enmity) with another person, and, at the same time, enjoy intimate fellowship with God? Why or why not? (Note 1 John 3:10-18; John 4:7-8, John 4:11, John 4:20-21)
Is the problem of misunderstanding between fellow Christians a problem which exists only in modem-day Churches, or was this a problem even during the time of the Early Church? (Note Philippians 4:2-3)
What should a believer do if he learns that a fellow believer has been offended by him? (Note Matthew 5:23)
From your perspective and personal experience in interpersonal relationship, why do you think that fellow Christians find it so "easy" to judge one another?
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Christians sometimes expect more of people than what God Himself expects of them."
Give your reacting or response to the following statements: "It is very easy to talk, but often hard to listen. It is easy to be so convinced that one is right in his views, that he becomes close-minded even to the suggestions or opinions of other Christians. The clash of strong-willed opinions oftentimes breeds misunderstandings." (Note Isaiah 1:18; Philippians 2:1-4; James 3:17; Acts 15:36-41; Ephesians 4:31-32)
What condition must a believer meet if he is to continue to experience God's forgiveness of his sins? (Note Matthew 6:12, Matthew 6:14-15; Matthew 18:21-35)
What should be our attitude towards those who wrong us and sin against us? (Note Ephesians 4:30-32; Colossians 3:12-13)
How is seeking to understand the motives in another person a real aid in helping you to more quickly and easily forgive what seems wrong to you in another person?
How does taking into consideration another person's temperament and background a real aid in helping you to understand and to forgive another person of his mistakes, shortcomings, and sins?
Give your reacting or response to the following statements: "We must welcome the mutual helpfulness of constructive criticism, for 'the best of us are only Christians in the making'? If we are afraid of criticism we are living on the defensive, living by fear rather than by faith. Let us lower the barriers and welcome the worst, and we will probably find the best!"
Tell why you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The fact that we have been able to hold resentment shows that there is a self that is oversensitive because unsurrendered to the will of God."
Has it been your experience that overly-sensitive people tend to "read into actions and statements meaning never intended", and that they tend to hold resentments that are rooted in imaginary slights, insults, and wrongs"? What do you believe is the best "cure" for "over sensitivity" in a person's life?
How does praying for a person, against whom you are tempted to hold resentment, help you?
Why is it so important to say everything good that you possibly can, about a person with whom you are unfriendly? Does the fact that you "dwell on the fine, good things in other" (Philippians 4:8, Living Bible), and the fact that you verbalize those good qualities which you see in others, help you to begin to think and to feel positively about those persons with whom you don't have a close relationship (and with those persons that you don't naturally like)?
Is it possible for a Christian to love another person whom he does not like"? Why or why not? (Note Luke 6:27-36) Does 'agape' love (divine-type love) involve a "commitment of the will" or is it a "sentiment of the heart"? Is it possible, through God's enabling grace, for you to genuinely love your "enemies", even though you may hate their actions and attitudes and may not be naturally attracted to then personality? Why or why not?
According to 2 Peter 1:5-8, what are the progressive steps which a believer must take, in order to become truly Christlike and mature in the Christian Faith? What is the greatest characteristic that best describes true maturity and Christ likeness?
Is it possible for you to fasten and focus on the faults which you see in others, without at the same time becoming a critical and judgmental and overly – sensitive person yourself? What is the difference between being judgmental (Matthew 7:1), and evaluating and examining the character of another person (Matthew 7:15-20; 1 John 4:1-3)?
Give your personal reacting or response to the following statements: "If ever we are at variance with someone else, we must get the situation put right straight away. It may mean that we must be humble enough to confess that we were wrong and to make apology; it may mean that, even if we were right, we have to take the first step towards healing the break."
Is it possible for one to be so full of the love of God that he is "too glad and too great to be the enemy of any man"?