Please open your Bibles to 2 Corinthians 5:14; 2 Corinthians 5:14. A very familiar text, great text. Let’s pray as we begin.
Lord, the preacher is weak and needy. I bring my own weakness, my own sin, my need of Christ, my great High Priest, need of the Holy Spirit. All of us sitting here, we’re the same; we need You. Lord, You are our hope. We have no other. Thank You for this great Gospel passage we’re going to look at. We do pray Your Spirit would work in all of our hearts and we would be compelled to this mission that You have called us to. In Jesus’ name, amen.
2 Corinthians 5:14-21:
“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
My son, Danny, came home from his baseball team and he said, “Dad, it was really weird.” He was in sixth grade. He said, “The coach made us all bow to the ground. It was like we were worshiping the ground. You know, we all line up and we bow to the coach,” and that’s like a handshake in Japan, “but then Dad, it’s so weird, we turn and face the baseball field and everybody bows to the ground like we’re worshiping the ground and it’s weird, Dad.” And I called a Japanese pastor I knew who had been studying to be a Buddhist priest before he became a Christian, and he said, “Oh yeah, Japan is pantheistic. You know, there’s not the Creator and the creation; it’s all one. And yeah, they’re worshiping the ground. Your son can’t do that.” And we were reading the book of Daniel in family worship and we jumped ahead to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and they didn’t bow down. “Danny, go back!” It was not real Gospel-push to do the right thing. “Just go obey God. Don’t bow down!” And he comes back and he said after the next baseball practice, “Dad, I don’t think I did the right thing.” “Well what did you do?” He said, “Well, when it came time to bow, you know we bow to the coach, that’s okay, that’s the handshake, and when it came time to bow to the ground, Dad, I’m sorry, I think I did…” “What did you do, Danny?” He said, “Well Dad, I finally have friends, I’m the only foreigner in our school, the only one in our neighborhood…” “Well what did you do?” He said, “Well, when it was time to bow to the ground, I flipped off my baseball cap, it fell to the ground, and when everybody bowed I bent over and picked it up.” And I said, “No, Danny, I don’t think you did right! You know, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, they didn’t throw their, ‘Okay guys, we’ll put our Babylonian coins down in the dirt and when they blow the trumpet, you know, we’ll get down and pick them up and no one will know that we’re not really…’ No,” I said. And so we prayed for Danny and we sent him back to baseball practice. And I wish I had time to tell what happened as the coach used all the pressure, the peer pressure of Japan, making all the kids bow again and again, trying to get Danny to bow and worship the dirt.
We talked this morning about the veil in Isaiah 25 that’s over the nations, the veil over these kids who have never ever heard this Gospel of Jesus. People all around the world. I saw a CNN special this past week on what ISIS has done to the Yizidi people. Anybody see that? You know, the darkness, the veil, the covering that is over the nations and the need for the Gospel of light to come into the world. This is a great passage to end the missions conference on because it talks about being compelled by this Gospel to be a part of doing something about that by being radical givers and radical goers and radical prayers because of this radical Gospel that this passage, this familiar passage, talks about. Commander Fuchida was a ruthless man who became a new creature in Christ. He led the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was, I mentioned this morning, he woke up on his aircraft carrier praying that the ships would be in the harbor and they were. And you know, praying to his gods. And killed 3,000 Americans that day, the 300 planes. The next morning, that morning, December 7, 1941, a man named Jake DeShazer was in California, army air corps, and he was so angry. He said, “I want to kill Japanese people!” And he threw his coffee cup against the wall and broke it. When he heard, he volunteered for a secret mission; it turned out to be the Doolittle Raid, and just a few months later, you know, the American B17 bombers took off from aircraft carriers – you know they’re not supposed to do that; they’re too big – with hardly any gas, just enough to go and bomb Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka, the three places MTW Japan works in Japan today; the three biggest metropolitan areas. And then they all flew on and crash landed in China for the Chinese underground to take care of them. We don’t do kamikaze Americans, but it was close to that, you know, and he got captured. He was in prison, Jake was in prison in Nanking. He was brutally tortured. He hated his Japanese captors even more because of what they were doing to him. And it was awful. He just was so full of hate.
But they let him have a Bible. Strange! And he read the Bible and he got to the story of the cross where Jesus prays for His captors and says, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And Jake DeShazer was converted in his prison of war camp there from reading the Bible. No one to talk with him about the Gospel, he kept reading and as he changed he began to love his captors. And he began to pray, “If I ever get out of here,” and this was the beginning of the war so it was a long time and a lot of them didn’t get out of there as you know, “If I ever get out of here I’m going to…” What do you think? What do you think he committed himself to do? What do you think? He said, “I’m going to go to Japan and tell this Gospel, this Gospel, to these Japanese people!” Isn’t that incredible? He became a new creature in Christ like this text says, compelled by the Gospel, to go on mission. It’s what we do. God made him to be that way.
So then, the story gets better. In Japan, Commander Fuchida hears about a young missionary girl that grew up in Yokohama and her parents fled to the Philippines in 1939 and Japanese soldiers killed her parents in the Philippines in 1943. And Peggy was 20 years old in the States, like we send our kids back to the States for college, and Peggy, after the war, Peggy, because she’s a new creature in Christ on mission, she hears the word they need people who speak Japanese to come back to Japan and work in the hospitals in Japan, and Commander Fuchida’s mechanic for his plane meets this young girl, Peggy. He’s wounded in a hospital and Peggy is there serving. She loves him and loves these Japanese soldiers and he hears that our soldiers killed your mom and dad. And he tells Commander Fuchida this story. He says, “I don’t understand this.” It’s changed, new creations in Christ, on mission. Commander Fuchida went, knocked on Jake DeShazer’s door, the missionary, and said, “Tell me about this Gospel.” He became an evangelist in Japan telling the good news of Jesus Christ until he died. This is what we do. God made them both new in Christ and in Christ He reconciled them to Himself and to each other. These enemies became best friends! That kind of speaks if we have problems with people. If these two, killing each other’s countrymen, could be reconciled to each other in Christ, how about us and our little problems? That’s another sermon! And He put them on mission; that’s the sermon. That’s what this passage talks about. People new in Christ on mission.
Yes, new in other ways too. I always knew verse 17 as being new in Christ but I didn’t think about it in terms of the context of this whole text which is being in mission. The context is mission – 18, 19, 20, right? In college when I memorized this verse, I remember a new desire for holiness as a new creature in Christ. I wanted to be holy. I remember thinking, “I want to be sexually pure.” All these applications of being a new creature in Christ, and that’s all true, but if we look at the context of 18 to 20, immediately after being a new creature in Christ what does it say? We’re new in regards to mission. We’re all “ministers of reconciliation.” This is what new creations do. The duck goes in the water because it’s a duck. Christians go on mission because we’ve been compelled and changed by this Gospel. Your missions conference is so important; it really is. There was a missions conference for me in your town here, thirty-one years ago, what was Westminster Presbyterian Church near the seminary and the Lord had been working in my heart through the whole three years of college. And God spoke to me at that missions conference just through the Word, a sermon on Matthew 28:19. I wrote in my Bible that night, “Okay Lord,” I was honest, I said, “I do not want to go.” My wife was ready; I wasn’t. “Lord, but willing. If you want us to go, we will go.”
Missions conference at your church the same year was a dangerous missions conference. I understand people came forward that year at the end of the missions conference. One of the ones who came forward that year was the senior pastor here, Don Patterson. He walked down from up here and came forward to commit himself – how many were here that night? Were any of you here? That night everyone was shocked, right, I’ve heard, and we heard about it at the seminary. The senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church committing himself to go where God wanted him to go to preach the Gospel. Jake DeShazer was new in Christ. He wanted to tell this news to Japan. We become new in Christ, we want to disciple our kids to be involved in mission. That’s the best thing that we can do for our kids. They grow up saying, “Mom and dad,” they don’t just say they believe in true bread, they don’t just say Jesus is the true bread, they don’t just say, “Yeah, we believe in missions,” they act like it by the way they pray, the way they give, by the way they live. We want our kids to grow up that way. It’s the best thing for our kids to see mom and dad, grandpa and grandma, new creatures in Christ on missions.
- The Gospel Message
It’s a great text, real briefly. The Gospel message is so clear in this text. The whole passage, let’s quickly review it. You know it’s good news. Jesus gave His life, verse 15, Jesus gave His life for me. We’re moved by true stories of people giving their lives for others, aren’t we? I remember after the tsunami, five years ago next week, this story, I was moved to tears of a lady in the Minami Sanriku town on the third floor and she hears that the wave is coming, the wave is coming, and she had the job of the loudspeakers to tell everyone that the city – that the little town has loudspeakers all over it for tsunami warning – and her job on the third floor is to warn everyone, “Go for the high ground! Go for the high ground! Run for the high ground!” And her fellow workers are saying, “Come to the roof! Come to the roof! It’s the biggest wave, you know, in a thousand years.” The biggest one in a thousand years. And she’s on the third floor and her family hearing her voice as they’re running for the high ground, all of a sudden her voice stopped because she was killed and swept away by the tsunami on the third floor of the town hall of that city. I remember hearing that story and I wept thinking of this lady giving her life for her town. We’re moved, aren’t we, when people give their life. This is a text that tells us greater life. She didn’t give her life for her enemies; Jesus came and gave His life for His enemies. He makes us new creatures, verse 17.
Good news – 18 and 19, He reconciles us to Himself. It’s repeated twice! We have this incredible position being ambassadors of the King. And then verse 21 – maybe the best Gospel summary in the Bible. You know it well. “He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus became sin for me. You know it. It’s easy for it to get old, for us to get used to it. This last year, this Gospel has affected my family and brought us to be able to see our family sins in a deeper way and to confess them to each other, parents to children. I’ll tell about that in a minute. And it’s because this Gospel is so powerful. The first part – He took our sin. Remember our son, Danny? Same one I told the stories on; the oldest boy. Danny, he was sick; he disobeyed. He ate something out of the refrigerator he was forbidden to eat and he had been told this is a spanking if you do this – the just punishment of his sin. And he finally owned up to it, he lied first, but he was sick and feeling so bad and we had heard of a pastor we knew who had gotten his wife to give him the spanking as substitute for their son. And we were new parents and we thought, “Well that sounds like a pretty good idea! Yeah, Danny’s sick, he deserves the spanking, but I’ll take it. Okay Carol, you get the spoon,” and Carol gave me the spanking in Danny’s place. Now I’m not recommending this! This isn’t a child raising talk or anything! We never did it again! Carol seemed to enjoy it a little too much! She hit me a little too hard! But Danny got the message. Today, and he’s a PCA pastor church planting in inner city Atlanta, and in his testimony he tells how he vividly remembers that day. It’s the only time we ever did it with nine kids! You know, lots of spankings, thousands probably! And only that one, you know! The wife enjoyed it too much! But yeah, Danny remembers that – the vivid picture of his father taking the punishment he deserved. I see some kids talking to their fathers, “Hey dad, how about you do that next time?”
But the second part of this is so wonderful too and it’s the part often lots of folks don’t talk about – that Jesus not only took our punishment, He gave us His perfect righteousness. I love my dad; he taught me this. I’m going to go see him the day after tomorrow. I get to fly up to Norton, New Jersey to see my eighty-eight year old dad. Thanks for inviting me to your missions conference to I can take a little side trip and go see my dad. He taught me to love the Gospel. He would always say this righteousness of Christ given to us, when we’re up it doesn’t get any better, when we’re down and do those awful sins we do of commission and omission, it’s the same, it’s the perfect imputed righteousness of Christ. This last year my wife and I were really challenged with our family generational sins and to summarize briefly, it’s really family idolatry. Big family. The kids know Christ. Good things become idols, don’t they? It’s really been an idol in our family. I don’t have time to go into it and we heard a message about this and we wrestled with it and we said, “We need to talk to our kids.” And a second family sin is ministry success and overwork, supposedly for the kingdom, and it is, but also for us and our reputation. Anybody understand what I’m talking about? And we really came to grips with it in a new way and began to confess, not two minutes, “Hey forgive us. We worked too hard.” But, “Here, listen to my twenty minute talk kids, adult children, about where we failed as parents because we really did. Please forgive us.” And explain. “And we think we did this.”
And you know, we have five that are married, and the spouses participated, the five spouses participated in several family meetings where we talked about these things and one of the spouses said, “This was wonderful. I want my family to be able to do this, but I don’t think they can yet.” But she said, “If you didn’t have a robust Gospel like this talks about, you couldn’t do this.” Right? This will scare you. My wife was really moved. She’s on Skype, skyping with our kids around the world, saying, “I’m not ready to do that yet!” but we did it because of the Gospel. We can look at our sin, we can confess it to God and to each other, because we have the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ and this puts us on mission. We’re moved by this. The second point. The message, the mission, and the motivation here. We’re made new to go on Gospel mission. This is what happens to us when we get the Gospel. If it’s not, something’s wrong.
- The Gospel Mission
How many of you saw the movie, Unbroken? How many of you read the book? Okay, you know the story. Same thing. It’s similar to the Jake DeShazer story. Louis came to Christ and he wanted to go back to Japan to find his captors and to forgive them and to tell them about Jesus. This is what happens when we’re changed by the Gospel. An interesting aside is that the rightest in Japan, where there’s no Gospel and have no clue you can’t face your sin in Japan. And they tried to work to keep the movie and the book from coming into Japan. Isn’t that something? But it shows what a Gospelist society is like. You can’t see your sin and say, “I’m sorry,” but we can because of Jesus. This is this ministry He gives us. Verse 18, “He gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” He reconciled us and gave us this ministry to do. It’s word and deed; both legs, of course. After the tsunami, we immediately started going north taking water and gasoline so people could escape from the Kashima plant. And you know, people saw that 300,000 foreigners were fleeing Japan. And RTS Orlando sent a team immediately to help us. The first team that came was from RTS Orlando. My son, missionary kid, came back to Japan with a team to help. People saw that and they said, “Why are they doing this?” A lady, seeing all the trucks go north from our church building in Chiba, Japan, people flying into Naida, more than 1,000 people came through to help over the first three years. It was incredible. And this lady, Mrs. Shikamazan, she saw it and she came to our church. She wanted to – it impressed her that all these people not running away, coming to help her country at a time of need.
But those good deeds were not enough to bring her to faith. This says in verse 19, “the message of reconciliation.” You know, we do the works of deeds of course, let’s not put them in a dichotomy, but here it says it’s this message of reconciliation, other translations, “the word of reconciliation.” But seeing those good deeds affected her. She came, she began to hear the Gospel, study the Gospel, came to Christ. We had the great joy of baptizing her last year as she came to Christ because of this powerful word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors for Christ. Do you know who the ambassador for Japan is? You know? It’s Caroline Kennedy, President Kennedy’s daughter, and she speaks words as the representative of our president. We are ambassadors to take this message to the world.
- The Gospel Motivation
Third thing – Gospel motivation. Look back at verse 14 and 15, “for the love of Christ controls us. And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” My first month at RTS here, right out of the Marine Corps, short high and tight haircut – I had hair back then, not much because I was a marine – and I heard a preacher at chapel and I got so mad. It was a missions sermon and he was a missionary and he was talking about the Lordship of Christ. He said, “If you’re not willing to go, you’re not qualified to stay.” If you’re not willing to go, you’re not qualified to stay. I got so bad! “God doesn’t want everybody to be missionaries! Who is this guy? What’s he trying to…” as I sat there in Grace Chapel. But then I got to thinking about what he was saying. It was a great sermon on our response to this Gospel. If you’re not willing to go – yes, he’s talking to a bunch of future pastors. If you’re not willing to go if Christ calls you – he’s not saying everybody was supposed to go; he said if you’re not willing to go, you’re not qualified to stay and be a pastor because the Lordship of Christ is in question. Yes. And over time I began to say, “Yes, my response to this Gospel is to say, ‘Yes, Jesus, my wallet’s Yours, my life is Yours, my kids are Yours.’” As we go out into this mission, the love of Christ controls us even to death, as the missions pastor was sharing a few minutes ago. You know, the anniversary of the famous martyrs in South America.
John Paton was a famous missionary. He was going to go to the South Sea Islands and his friend came up to him and said, “John, don’t go. Don’t go, John. It’s dangerous there. You’ll be eaten by cannibals!” And he famously replied, “My friend, you are old, soon you will be in the grave and you will be eaten by worms!” And he said, “I’d rather go and serve Christ, taking the good news to a place that has no church, that people don’t have this good news and be eaten by cannibals.” And you read the stories of his family, what they went through; it’s incredible what happened to them and their struggles. Maybe some of your pastors need to come to Japan. You know I mentioned this morning the PCA glut of pastors – 200 applying for one position. In Japan we have 200 cities that need a church and no applications, you know? Kind of an over simplification but it’s really worse than that. Maybe, like Don Patterson thirty years ago, one of your pastors will, after this missions conference, say, “Here I am. Send me to go somewhere where we’re needed.”
We don’t have too many PCA martyrs. I know one. Do you know any PCA martyrs? I know one, Michael Cardarelli. You read about him a few years ago, several years ago in Afghanistan. He was on a medical mission over the mountains. He knew what he was getting into. He was, in the name of Christ, to go to a remote village, and when they came out of that village he and the whole group of ten were killed. He’s from Covenant Presbyterian Church, Harrisonburg, Virginia. Fine young man; came to Japan several times on mission trips to serve Christ; loved Jesus, knew the risk. And that, we’re called to say, “Jesus, here we are. What do You want us to do?” You know, we live near D.C. when we’re on home assignment; we take a lot of our Japanese friends who come visit up to D.C. and near the Jefferson Memorial there, there’s this plaque that says, “We pledge our fortunes and our lives” for what? “For this new country that’s going to be born.” Was it a good thing? Is it a good thing? Yes. I’m all for it. But friends, we pledge our fortunes and our lives for something so much greater and for a kingdom that cannot fail. We say, “Here we are, Jesus!” With our giving – we’re the richest church in the world, probably the PCA per capita as I mentioned this morning. I was at a missions conference at Park Cities in Dallas and John Piper preached. And the couple I was staying with, he was thirty-four; their house was so big. It was the biggest house I’ve ever seen. He was thirty-four years old. He had done a $4.7 billion dollar deal with Bear Stearns the year before and he was very, very – he had made a lot of money. And the Lord got a hold of them at that missions conference and he, you know, their house, the assistant pastor there said, “Wow, what a big house. I think there are unreached people groups living in this house!”
But the last night, John Piper asked people to come forward and make a commitment, like to downsize your house or to say, “I’m going, Lord, unless You stop me. Not a little, not I’m going to increase my giving from 10% to 11% but radical kind of commitments.” I was sitting in the pew with this couple. They started talking during the sermon. They came forward and they downsized their house. They left Bear Stearns, which later they were really thankful for, and went on mission. Today he’s a bank starter, starting banks. Radical sender. He wants to disciple twenty people to give away a million dollars for the sake of the kingdom, growing the kingdom around the world. Friends, we need radical prayers for this kingdom advancement. We need rope holders. We need people like this friend of ours early on in Japan – we’re so discouraged learning the language, no fruit. Bitzi Cameron, one of our supporters, she said, “I’m going to get up thirty minutes earlier every day to pray for you guys” because she wanted to hold the ropes for us in Japan. This love of Christ is compelling.
Same son, Danny – last story. Danny was going to school the other side of Tokyo and I got a call from my wife that he got suspended, seventeen years old, senior, he got suspended. And she said, “Dan, come home right away!” And I said, “Let me talk to Danny. Danny, what did you do?” He said, “Dad, could I please tell you when I get home?” This was the boy who, at fifteen, put Sarah’s head in the toilet, okay? He’s a PCA pastor now! He said, “Dad, could I tell you when you get home?” And I said, “Tell me, Danny. It’s okay, tell me. What did you do?” He said, “Dad, I really want to tell you face to face.” And I said, “Okay, I’m hopping on the train. I’ll be right home.” And I remembered when I was about that age my dad telling me, when I had done something very wrong, telling me, “I love you son, and whatever you do can’t change my love for you.” And I remembered that being very powerful in my life. And I told Danny on the phone, “Danny, whatever you did,” – it was a Christian school, missionary kid school, – “I know what you did was wrong but I love you. Whatever you did doesn’t change my love for you.” And I got on the train and I was thinking the worst. You know, I was thinking, “Oh boy, I wonder if he did that? No, it couldn’t have been that; it would have been more than three days!” And we got home and I didn’t appear relived when he told me what he had done. It was bad but it was about three days’ suspension worth and God worked in his heart. That was a great time of him really coming to know Christ on his own. And two weeks later he told me, he said, “Dad, you know on the phone when you told me you loved me? That was very powerful in my life.” Now as you hear this, some of you had fathers who loved you like that, and some didn’t, but all of us today we have our heavenly Father, we have this love of Christ this text speaks of – the love of Christ that constrains and compels and controls us that we know his love and grace and yes, it drives us, compels us to go on mission. Let’s pray!
Lord, we thank You for this great Gospel that this love of Christ that does compel us to mission and we want to know You first. We want to know, “He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” And Lord, we pray as we know more of Your great love for sinners that we would respond and we would love You back, that we would grow in holiness and that we would go on mission for the sake of Jackson and for Mississippi and for the nations that need this Gospel so desperately. In Jesus’ name, amen.