Yesterday’s message …
- Came from my friend and colleague Devin Tharp, our Family Ministries Pastor and Team Leader of the Beautiful Marriage Movement;
- Interrupted the “Famous Last Words” series so that Devin could share freely and personally;
- Was delivered while my family and I (Julie, kids, and spouses) were returning from a week vacation (you might hear about that tomorrow);
- Led to this refreshing bit of news: You don’t have to be a finished produce to be used by God.
Bottom Line: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A FINISHED PRODUCT TO BE USED BY GOD.
I grew up in a small town in eastern Ohio and it was there where I first developed my relationship with God. When I was in high school, I joined a bible study with some friends. And as a part of that group, I had to memorize lots of verses of scripture. When I had completed all 3 of the Bible studies, I had memorized over 60 verses of the Bible. Now, I have to tell you that those verses served me extremely well over the years and, while I didn’t love memorizing them at the time, I now know that those verses provided—in so many ways—guard rails for my life growing up.
And one of the first verses of scripture that I ever memorized was 2 Corinthians 5:17. [READ]
I love the word “NEW” here b/c it carries with it the idea that we are both made new in a moment AND as a process that is ongoing for the rest of our lives. As our faith develops, we have crisis moments when we commit our lives to the Lord and in between those crisis moments, we have the everyday moments that God uses to continue to shape and mold us into the people he desires us to be. So, “Do we develop our faith in a moment or over time?” And the answer, of course is, “YES! Both And!”
At the beginning of quarantine, I decided to take on a project that I had been wanting to complete. My in-laws had given us a travel trailer that had sat on their lake property for years and I wanted to remodel it. And, I also saw it as an opportunity to redeem myself from the D I got in high school wood shop. Yes, I got a D in wood shop—and my dad was a carpenter. You can imagine how that went over!
So for the remodel, at first, I thought, a coat of paint is going to make it look like it’s brand new. But, after SEVERAL coats of paint, I decided to rip up the carpet and replace it with some newer flooring. And, then I discovered that one end of the slide out portion of the camper was completely rotten (Rotten Wall Pic) It had a leak in the roof and had been slowly wasting away over the past few years. So, I had to strip the walls and remove the insulation. To make a long story short, the scope of the project became a lot bigger than I originally had planned for…and budgeted for.
I’m sure you know what I’m talking about b/c you’ve experienced the same thing in your life. It’s that time you decided to do a simple remodel of your bathroom only to discover that there were problems under the surface that made it a much bigger and more expensive job. It’s the time you took your car in for what you thought would be a simple repair and the shop tells you the bad news that you need transmission.
Well, this project has given me a new perspective on my relationship with God. I have come to realize that my spiritual development is so much like this project. I so often want God to simply change my behavior—just change me on the outside, but soon I begin to realize that my problems are not external but internal and they go much deeper than I ever realized. God begins to reveal to me that I really am messed up at the very core of who I am.
Maybe you’ve experienced this to…
• It’s the addiction you thought you could kick just like that (snap fingers), only to discover it was a much harder process than you realized.
• It’s the relationship that you thought one trip to a counselor would fix and after months of counseling, you realize the brokenness was deeper than you ever imagined.
Isn’t it fantastic that we serve a God who doesn’t back off when he realizes the depth of our brokenness, but he continues to pursue us. He desires to change us—no matter how deep our mess goes.
The question is…why? Why does God want to transform us? What is his reasoning for remodeling us spiritually?
Now, if you want, I invite you to pause the message here and answer these questions. It could be with your family or if you are hosting at Good Shepherd at Home group, then I invite you to ask these questions to your group.
Good Shepherd at Home Question:
1. Why does God want to transform us?
2. What is his reasoning for remodeling us spiritually?
Well, Paul, the author of most of the NT, has some insight into these questions. And we can discover those as we listen in on a conversation he was having with a group of Christians who were living in the city of Corinth.
The city of Corinth was uniquely positioned along several trade routes and was an important port city, so lots of people—people from all over the known world at that time, traveled to and from Corinth. It was a city known for its pleasures and temptations abounded. And b/c of the variety of people there, it also contained a lot of different belief systems as well. So, Christians there had their work cut out for them in terms of living out their faith. Their values would have been tested on a daily basis.
Now, this particular letter was not the first time Paul had written to the Corinthian church. And, can we all agree that when you have to write more than one letter of instruction to a group of people, that there are clearly some issues.
So, it’s in that context that we read 2 Corinthians 5. And this is the greater context that gives us a much better perspective than the one simple verse I memorized as a teen.
So, because of what Christ has done, they now see people in a new way. They have not only been made new, but they now see people through a NEW perspective as well.
If you’re a follower of Christ, you’ve experienced this as well. People are image bearers of our God—they are valuable and each created uniquely.
Paul says, this new creation and this new perspective is from God—He’s the source of it all! It’s the result of what Jesus did on the cross because through his death, burial and resurrection, everyone who has been separated from God has the opportunity to be brought near to him again. In fact, that is what reconciliation is—it’s the opportunity of God to no longer count people’s sins against them b/c the penalty of all people’s sins had been paid by Christ’s death on the cross.
And Paul wanted to emphasize something to the people of Corinth in his writing—b/c not only did God bring them close to himself through Christ’s finished work on the cross, but he also desires to give them the opportunity to share that good news with others. Paul says, the Lord has given us—meaning the Corinthians—the ministry of reconciliation. He has given us the opportunity to tell others how their sins don’t have to be counted against them any longer and they can be forgiven. What an amazing message…that’s the message that has been given to these Corinthians.
Think about that—here is a group of people who are clearly not doing everything right—which is why Paul is instructing them…again. And, yet, Paul is reminding them that God is making them new, he is also inviting them to invite others. The invited have now become the inviters. The recipients of the message can now become the proclaimers of the message. And this message, is the most important message in the history of the world. And God is willing, in fact, God desires for them to be the very people to share it with others.
And just to make sure they are getting the point here, Paul continues…
Paul is so emphatic that he gives them a new title: ambassadors.
And you know what an ambassador does, don’t you? An ambassador is someone who represents their Sovereign—someone they willingly serve. They speak for them and they become a presence for their Sovereign wherever he needs them to be. Paul is declaring to the Corinthian church that they are now ambassadors for Jesus himself and there is no need for them to continue to pursue their selfish agenda—God has a mission and a purpose specifically for them.
As we say at GS, the scriptures weren’t written TO you, but they were written FOR you. And Paul may be writing TO the Corinthians, but this message is FOR you as well. If you are a follower of Christ, then, according to the Scripture, you are an ambassador for Christ. You represent him!
Now, if you’re not a follower of Christ—we’re still glad you’re with us and you’re seeking the truth with us. But this truth—this commission—is for all of us who call ourselves followers of Jesus.
And think about this—the Corinthians were called to represent Jesus to their world—and they had some issues. They had a past and God was still developing them in the present—he was still in the process of making them NEW. However, that didn’t stop God from offering them a mission for their future—represent me to the world! Share the hope of Jesus with them!
You might have a similar story to the Corinthians. You have a past—and it’s checkered. And even now, in the present, God is working on you. He is changing your heart, molding your perspective. BUT, God does not call people to represent him who “have it all together.”
• He calls people who have a past.
• He calls people who have made bad choices.
• He calls people who are still being changed by the work of the Holy Spirit.
• In fact, the only prerequisite to being an ambassador of Christ is to trust in Jesus and allow him to be Lord of your life. And if Jesus is your Lord, then you are called to be his ambassador.
And it’s through these verses that we come to realize an important truth: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A FINISHED PRODUCT TO BE USED BY GOD.
You don’t have to have it all together in order for God to use you! Because if God can use the messed-up people from the Corinthian church to share his message of hope to the world, then he can certainly use you as well.
Now, I know that when sharing a message like this, there are people who want to say, “Yeah, but.”
“Yeah, But…you don’t know my past.” You’re right. I don’t. BUT God does…and he makes it clear here and in other passages that he is ok with using you. If anyone had a terrible past—it was Paul—he had Christians killed and God still chose to use him. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A FINISHED PRODUCT TO BE USED BY GOD.
“Yeah, But…I don’t have anything to offer the Lord. He can’t really use me.” First, that is such a lie. God has gifted each person with unique strengths and gifts. And Scripture tells us again and again that God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. So, if you don’t think you have much to offer, that’s actually a really great place for God to show his power through your life. Remember, God once used a teenage boy with a smooth stone to bring down a giant warrior, so God is accustomed to using something small and weak to show his strength. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A FINISHED PRODUCT TO BE USED BY GOD.
“Yeah, But…I’m too young” Too young…have you heard of Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego? Look them up in the book of Daniel chapter 3 and you’ll see that God chose to use 3 teenagers to change a king’s mind and shape the direction of a nation. God delights in using young people to do his work. YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A FINISHED PRODUCT TO BE USED BY GOD.
B/c being used by God is ultimately not about you. It’s about the Sovereign you represent and what he wants to do through you. You are simply the vessel. So, you can be young, you can be old, you can have a past, you can even believe that you have nothing to offer—and God is still capable to use you in ways you couldn’t imagine!
I hope you’ve had the opportunity to meet our new student pastor, Mathew Hargett (Picture of Mathew). He’s now coming up on his 1 year anniversary at Good Shepherd. Well, Mathew has a unique story as he has never met his biological mother. Now, as you can imagine, that brought with it a whole lot of questions for Mathew and a whole lot of struggles for him when he was growing up. And some of those struggles have followed him into adulthood. He recently shared with me, “Even today as I raise my sons, and work to be a good husband. There are times when I feel overwhelmed with the questions of am I good enough, and do I have what it takes? I have to make the choice in the midst of those fears every day to follow Jesus, and listen to his voice over my fears and feelings of inadequacy.”
Those struggles could have prevented him from believing that God could use him, but they didn’t b/c he has experienced the power of the ONE who has given him a new identity. And part of his new identity is that he ministers to students and shares with them about the God who can support them through their toughest times. He knows: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A FINISHED PRODUCT TO BE USED BY GOD.
1. Why does God want to transform us?
2. What is his reasoning for remodeling us spiritually?
He wants to mold us to become more like his Son—Jesus. And as we become NEW, he wants to put us on display—and allow our lives to be an example of what he can do IN us and THROUGH us. And in the process, our lives no longer point to ourselves—they point to him—our Sovereign—and the one to who receives all the glory.
When I was in 6th grade, I played a part in a play at my church. And my character was a man who had recently put his faith in Christ. And he wanted to serve God, but he believed in order to do that he had to become a missionary. So, throughout the play the church community around him try to help him see that he could be used by God right where he was.
And I remember that, b/c it drove home a point that I think many of us buy into and it’s the idea that in order to be used by God, you have to be a pastor, missionary or a leader in the church. Now, God is going to call people to missionaries—otherwise, how will those people know if no one tells them? But, God can also use you right where you are.
Because there are people in your family who don’t know Christ and you can point them to him. There are people that you work with, who don’t know that God’s forgiveness is available to them and you can tell them. You can be an ambassador for Christ right where you are.
So, I’ll close with this one question: What could you do to better represent Christ to the people near you?
YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A FINISHED PRODUCT TO BE USED BY GOD.