A Catholic priest working in an inner city was walking down an alley one evening on his way home when a young man came down the alley behind him and poked a knife against his back. "Give me your money," the young man said. The priest opened his jacket and reached into an inner pocket to remove his wallet, exposing his clerical collar. "Oh, I’m sorry, Father," said the young man, "I didn’t see your collar. I don’t want YOUR money."
Trembling from the scare, the priest removed a cigar from his shirt pocket and offered it to the young man. "Here," he said. "Have a cigar."
"Oh, no, I can’t do that," the young man replied, "I gave them up for Lent."
This is the beginning of Lent. Most people are looking for things to give up for Lent. It you haven’t made up your mind maybe these will help.
GIVE UP grumbling! Instead, "In everything give thanks." Constructive criticism is OK, but "moaning, groaning, and complaining" are not Christian disciplines.
GIVE UP 10 to 15 minutes in bed! Instead, use that time in prayer, Bible study and personal devotion.
GIVE UP looking at other people’s worst points. Instead concentrate on their best points. We all have faults. It is a lot easier to have people overlook our shortcomings when we overlook theirs first.
GIVE UP speaking unkindly. Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding. It costs so little to say something kind and uplifting. Why not check that sharp tongue at the door?
GIVE UP your hatred of anyone or anything! Instead, learn the discipline of love. "Love covers a multitude of sins."
GIVE UP your worries and anxieties! Instead, trust God with them. Anxiety is
spending emotional energy on something we can do nothing about: like tomorrow! Live today and let God’s grace be sufficient.
GIVE UP TV one evening a week! Instead, visit some lonely or sick person. There are those who are isolated by illness or age. Why isolate yourself in front of the "tube?" Give someone a precious gift: your time!
GIVE UP buying anything but essentials for yourself! Instead, give the money to God. The money you would spend on the luxuries could help someone meet basic needs. We are called to be stewards of God’s riches, not consumers.
GIVE UP judging by appearances and by the standard of the world! Instead, learn to give up yourself to God. There is only one who has the right to judge, Jesus Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:16-21
In everything from computers to dishwashing liquid, we want the new and improved version. Often, however, getting something new is not a luxury, but a necessity. Everyone has experienced the need to replace an old, malfunctioning item with a new one.
Sometimes our broken-down lives also need to be replaced with that which is new and improved.
When Christ came. He replaced the old system with His plan of salvation. He is author of all things new. He wants us to know that our lives can be made new. How are our lives new in Christ?
I. We become a new creation (v. 17).
A. The old things have gone. Do we really believe this? Since we constantly review the past, it is often difficult to accept that God puts our past in the past.
B. The new has come. Do we really believe this? We don't always look new, but where it counts we are.
C. This is only possible because we are in Christ. He is the only one with the power to make us new.
II. We enjoy a new covenant (w. 18,19).
A. Once we were separated from God. We were indeed separated, whether we knew it or not.
B. Now we are reconciled to Him. The relationship is mended as if the offense never happened.
C. This is because Christ died for us. This is the beautiful mystery of the cross.
III. We experience a new compulsion (vv. 20,21).
A. We are reconciled to become reconcilers.
B. We cannot rest until all who need the message have heard it.
C. We have been made ambassadors.
There is no more responsible position than that of ambassador.
1. An ambassador is a representative in a foreign land. An ambassador’s life is spent among people who usually speak a different language, who have a different tradition and who follow a different way of life.
a. The Christian is always like that. We live in the world; we take part in all the life and work of the world; but we are a citizen of heaven. To that extent we are a stranger in the world. The person who is not willing to be different from the world cannot be a Christian at all.
2. An ambassador speaks for their country. There are times when you, the Christian, has to speak for Christ. In the decisions and counsels of the world, ours must be the voice which brings the message of Christ to the human situation.
3. The honour of a country is in the hands of its ambassadors. Their country will be judged by them. Their words will be listened to, and their deeds are watched.
a. Here is the Christian’s privilege and almost terrifying responsibility. The honour of Christ and of the church are in your and my hands. By our very words and actions we can make people think more or less of our church and our Master.
Be reconciled to God. Accept the offer of the grace of God. Do not frustrate grace. Lest think of it in human terms:
Suppose that you, as a parent, sacrifices and toils to give your child every chance, surrounds the child with love, plans for the child’s future with care, and does everything humanly possible to equip that child for life. And suppose your child feels no debt of gratitude, never feels the obligation to repay by being worthy of all this; and suppose your child fails, not because of a lack of ability, but because they will not try, because your child forgets the love that gave them so much. Your heart is broken.
When God gives us all his grace and we take our own foolish way and frustrate that grace which might have recreated us, once again we crucify Christ and break the heart of God.