Have you ever left something half done before? Now I’m not talking about a time when you were only able to get half the dishes in the sink washed, nor just slopping your sheets over your pillow in the morning without tucking in the sheets. I’m talking about those times when you left a job or an event or a meeting, or a reunion, or something monumental where, as you walked away, you really truly felt like you had held back on really fulfilling what you knew you should’ve done. How do those times make you feel? Do you have any hanging out there in the breeze right now? Well, guess what, today is your blessed day. Because today God gives you the chance to remember that you still have time left- but not much. And you know what, you have some work to do too- and we’re not talking about finishing that job cleaning out your gutters at home or something like that (besides, after last night, it’s too late for that anyways, right?!), we’re talking about getting out there, putting on your big-Christian pants, and representing your Savior to your family, your friends, your co-workers, your community, the world. And brothers and sisters in Jesus, Don’t Hold Back! No matter what comes (and it will!)! Through the tools of righteousness in Christ our Lord! Our text:
6 As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says,
“In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.
3 We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 4 Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; 5 in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; 7 in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; 8 through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; 9 known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; 10 sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
11 We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange— I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.
If there’s one person that ever existed that I think could say that he never really held anything back in anything- it was the Apostle Paul. Wow, look at the things he went through! We can talk about the things many of us can understand- like people giving us trouble and hardships, dishonor of our reputation and name, being called fakers or hypocrites- often times deserved, right? We’ve been sorrowful as we remember our sin and as we feel pain in our guts for those who are caught in serious sin- that keeps us up at night, and I don’t think there are any millionaires in this congregation, right? Yeah Paul, we know your pain.
But then we look at the other stuff too, did you hear this? Beatings, imprisonments, being in the center and THE center of riots, hunger, elsewhere in Scripture Paul talked about shipwrecks and other beatings, beings left for dead, although he wasn’t…and then all of a sudden we realize that if anyone had reason to hold back- on proclaiming God’s Word, on making a stand for the truth- it was Paul. How did we know that that didn’t happen? Because he did go through all of this! And yet, what was his word? Like some sick football player who rocks someone’s world with a tackle heard round the world that comes back to the huddle with blood dripping down his lip, only to say, “Yow!! Did you see that hit?! I don’t even recognize half you guys, but your jersey looks like mine, so let’s keep the hammer down!” Paul looks at these Christians he was writing to and says, “So, what are YOU waiting for?!” 12 We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. 13 As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also. Come on! Let’s do this! What are you afraid of? Our time is short- and our time is now! If you don’t do it now, who will?! So, what are you afraid of? I really think that’s the question that you have to ask yourself this week, don’t you?
What’s keeping you from reaching out to that family member who’s living in sin? Do it! What’s keeping you from sitting down with that person in your life that you know needs Jesus, and yet you’ve been avoiding them for how long now? Days? Months? Years? COME ON- LET’S DO THIS! Don’t hold back either- let ‘em know what it is that’s important to you- their souls!
It’s interesting, I had some people talk to me last week via email, facebook, or another novel idea- face-to-face book, and they asked me about the pastors in Houston being threatened with jail if they don’t turn over their sermons about preaching against homosexuality (now they were using the pulpit to fight against the government, not against sin, so that’s a different thing altogether…), but they asked me what I’d do if I was faced with that. I told them, “That’s easy- I’d have my family and them come and visit me in jail for a little while.”
So, what’s keeping you from witnessing to others? What’s keeping you from sharing your faith? What’s keeping you from letting people know that you want them in heaven with you someday? Judging from what I’ve heard through various means, you don’t have any problems talking about them behind their backs, what’s keeping you from doing it to their face? And really, everyone, I think it’s time you stop using age, gender, background, personality, personal history, and Scripture knowledge as an excuse, don’t you? Or maybe you’re afraid of what repercussions you might face? Well, let me tell you this much, there was a man who once lived that ended his life with not one friend who was willing to stand by his side. And he worked it out pretty well, didn’t he?
So don’t hold back. And know this- I’ve said it before, if you’re going to keep someone from doing something (here- holding back), provide them with the tools to let them do it right.
I mean, who needs beatings when we beat up ourselves enough, huh? Who needs imprisonments, when we imprison our conscience more than any brick-and-mortar building ever could. Who needs hunger or poverty when we starve our hearts with grace and pity. And sleepless nights?! Brother, how sleepless those nights can be as we toss and turn thinking about our sons and daughters, our fellow co-workers who we know are putting their soul in the middle of hell and we still haven’t talked to them… right? But what did Paul do? He quoted Isaiah’s prophecy of God delivering Israel and let the Corinthians know that they were the new Israel- and so are we! And now is the day of salvation indeed!
Don’t receive God’s grace in vain. 2 For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. 4As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance… 6 in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; How about we go to the verses right before our text today too: 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Tell, me, how’s that for truthful speech and the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left, EH?! I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, God never puts us in a place he doesn’t give us the tools to handle! And he starts with letting you know this- brothers and sisters, It’s going to be okay. Brothers and sisters, you’re forgiven.
God took your sin and put in on Jesus. It doesn’t get any simpler than that, and that is the only weapon we need to hold in our hands. The next time you face off with that family member, speak the Word and the power of God will work through you. You know what, I didn’t put a bulletin insert for small group in your bulletin today on purpose. I just want you to talk together about this one simple question- What does it mean to YOU to be an ambassador of Christ, as though God was making his appeal through us? Because you know what, he is. Through each one of you. And it starts with you realizing that you are now appealing. You are appealing and you are good and you are right and you are holy and you are perfect and you are forgiven. Through Jesus Christ. Through your Lord and Savior. Through the one that became YOUR SIN so that in him, you might be the righteousness of God. And that, dear friends, is what you are.
Now don’t hold back. Ever. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.