Second, the new creation changes changes the believer’s purpose in life.
Why don’t we go straight to heaven the moment we are saved? We are a new creation. We have our ticket to heaven. Why doesn’t God just save us and zap us a split second after our baptism and whisk us away so that we can be with him for all eternity? It doesn’t work that way because God saved you for a purpose. Before you lived for yourself. Your future, your career, your family, your comfort. Now God wants us to live for the One who died for us and was raised.
Last week, one of the things we talked about was how having an eternal perspective helps us to live wisely in light of divine judgment. Christians will be judged, not in terms of getting into heaven or being cast into hell, but our lives will be evaluated and we will be repaid or rewarded for what we have done in the body, whether good or worthless.
How specifically will our lives be evaluated when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ, which we read about in v10?
To answer that, we have to read the section that follows. In light of the coming judgment and evaluation, we read in 2 Cor 5:11–
2 Cor 5
11 Therefore, because we know the fear of the Lord, we seek to persuade people.
There’s that important word again – “therefore.” Because of divine judgment for believers, therefore, seek to persuade people. This means, one way that God will evaluate our lives is to check, in your lifetime, did you use your time and talents and treasure to persuade people? What does it mean to persuade people? Paul explains more in v18.
2 Cor 5
18 Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed the message of reconciliation to us.
Persuading people is synonymous with the ministry of reconciliation. Who is Paul referring to? Who is the audience? Who does God expect should invest the time and effort to persuade people? In other words, who has been given this ministry of reconciliation? Is it only the pastors? Or only the paid staff or elders? Only the missionaries? No, Paul is referring to all Christians. Every Christian, you and I, have been given this task of persuading people and this ministry of reconciliation. Regardless of title, regardless of how long or how short you have been a Christian, all followers of Jesus have been called to persuade others to be reconciled to God.
Prior to God saying that He has given us the ministry of reconciliation, v18 begins with the statement that “everything is from God.” Why does Paul begin the verse like that? Answer: God gives us things in order that we may use those things to be a minister of reconciliation. Everything that God blesses us with–life, health, talents, gifts, opportunities–God expects that we will leverage all of those blessings to help people be reconciled to God.
We often divide vocations into sacred vocations and secular vocations. Sacred vocations like the pastorate are what most refer to as sacred callings. Everything else is a secular job. Not true. If this ministry of reconciliation has been given to every believer, and it has, then there is no such thing as sacred vocations distinct from secular vocations. All Christians, regardless of vocation that God has assigned to you, has been called to be ministers to help others be reconciled to God. In that sense, all vocations are just tools. If you are a full-time minister like I am, then I have been given more time to minister to people.
That is why it says in James 3 that not many should become spiritual teachers in the church because we will receive a stricter judgment. I will be held to a higher standard and my life will be scrutinized more carefully not because I have been called to the ministry of reconciliation and a member of this church has not been called to that same ministry. I will receive a stricter judgment because God has given me more time and more opportunities and a platform to persuade people. If I used my freedom of not having to go into an office and not having to report to a human boss in order to play video games all day, then I will not be looking forward to judgment day. Because I would have been a poor steward of everything that God has given to me because he gave me everything with the expectation that I would be faithful to the ministry of reconciliation.
Likewise, your job, your money, your talents, the doors that open because of your vocation, God expects the same from every believer. He wants you to be a good steward. You might have less time than me to be involved in face to face ministry of persuading people to be reconciled to God. But, with the time he does give, how are you stewarding it? The money he has put into your bank account, how are you stewarding your financial blessings? Everything is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. I hope you see the connection. He wants all believers to have a new purpose in life, regardless of your vocation. Because all vocations are sacred, they are tools that God has given to us to make us effective ministers.
2 Cor 5
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, certain that God is appealing through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.” 21 He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
An ambassador is a highly ranking envoy, a diplomat, one who represents their nation to the world. He or she needs to speak up and represent his country well before presidents and prime ministers and dictators of other nations. How well do you and I represent our Lord and the kingdom of God? When people look at your life, do they see Christ? Do you speak up on behalf of Christ? Are you outspoken in your faith? If you are silent, examine why you are silent. Are you silent because you know there is hypocrisy in your life? Or, are you ashamed of Christ? Are you ashamed to tell others you are Christian? If you are ashamed of your nation, then you are not fit to be an ambassador for that nation. You will not be good at your job. Remember this–Christ said, if you are ashamed of him during your lifetime, then he will be ashamed of you on judgment day.
2 Cor 6
1 Working together with Him, we also appeal to you, “Don’t receive God’s grace in vain.” 2 For He says: I heard you in an acceptable time, and I helped you in the day of salvation. Look, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.
Working with God, faithfully being an ambassador, living as a spokesperson on behalf of Christ who seeks to persuade others through you–this is a natural byproduct of someone who has received God’s grace. If the purpose of your life hasn’t changed and you are still living for yourself and not for the One who died for you and was raised, then Paul would say, you have received God’s grace in vain.