2 Corinthians 5:6-17 So we are always confident, because we know that while we are living in the body, we are away from our home with the Lord. 7 We live by faith and not by sight. 8 We are confident, and we would prefer to leave the body and to be at home with the Lord. 9 So our goal is to be acceptable to him, whether we are at home or away from home. 10 We all must appear before Christ in court so that each person can be paid back for the things that were done while in the body, whether they were good or bad.
11 So we try to persuade people, since we know what it means to fear the Lord. We are well known by God, and I hope that in your heart we are well known by you as well. 12 We aren’t trying to commend ourselves to you again. Instead, we are giving you an opportunity to be proud of us so that you could answer those who take pride in superficial appearance, and not in what is in the heart.
13 If we are crazy, it’s for God’s sake. If we are rational, it’s for your sake. 14 The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: one died for the sake of all; therefore, all died. 15 He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised.
16 So then, from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. 17 So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!
We are on a journey in life. From the day we are born to the day we die we are on a journey. In part, it is a learning journey, as we discover new things and learn how to get along in our world. It is a journey of adapting to changes. It is a journey of spiritual discovery and living. It is a life-long journey. Paul indicates that our spiritual journey is one from “being away from home” to “being at home with Christ (v. 6-8). It is the creation of a path where none existed before.
Janna’s father, Doyle, worked for a time with the Forest Service. On of his many jobs was making trails. Sometimes it was maintaining and improving existing trails, and sometimes it was making an all-new trail. I can imagine the process: here is where we start and here is where we want to end. The process is choosing the right path, the ones that make sense.
Each of us has to find our path with Christ, a path, in Paul’s words, that leads us home to Jesus.
Isaiah was writing to the people of God in exile. They desperately needed a path back to walking with God. They had been forced into exile because of the wandering paths they had taken which had moved them away from God. In Isaiah 43, Isaiah is trying to encourage the Israelites. In verse 19 God says through Isaiah, “Look! I’m doing a new thing; now it sprouts up; don’t you recognize it? I’m making a way in the desert, paths in the wilderness.” That same theme repeats in 65:17. “Look! I am creating a new heaven and a new earth: past events won’t be remembered; they won’t come to mind.” In other words, the path that God was creating for the Israelites was one paved with forgiveness and the promise for a future. God is creating. What follows is a poetic description of that that new creation will look like. You would recognize some of these phrases: “Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear. 25 Wolf and lamb will graze together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but the snake—its food will be dust. They won’t hurt or destroy at any place on my holy mountain, says the Lord.” That is a path home!
Consider Saul/Paul’s path. Saul was captive to preconceived judgments. He truly believed that God had shown him what was right, and this Jesus was wrong. Saul’s personal Pentecost was such a radical change that he even got a new name. In light of Paul’s personal Pentecost on the Damascus Road, his perception of life and faith and people was completely and radically changed. His judging by human standards allowed him to persecute Christians and kept him focused on the crucified Jesus (the triumphant results of human sin). After his encounter with Christ, he perceived the resurrected Christ, fully God, and the potential new creation in everyone. His relationship with Christians took a whole new path. The path was from “persecutor of” to “champion for” those very same Christians. Paul was a new creation in Christ. His new path was to help others become new creations in Christ.
Let’s ponder creation for a moment. In Genesis, creation is depicted as immediate. God spoke and it happened! “Let there be light, and there was.” For Paul it was immediate. When we came to believe in Jesus, to become a follower of the resurrected Christ, he was a new creation, and embarked on a journey of living into that new creation. The same is true for us. Each of us must discover our path, a path that is based on who God has created us to be. It will be based on our God-given talents and abilities. We are a new creation and therefore we must find the new path based on that newness.
On this journey and its associated paths, Paul gives us a goal. 2 Corinthians 5:9 indicates we are to please God with our lives. “So, our goal is to be acceptable to him, whether we are at home or away from home.” Further, in verse 15, Paul says, “He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised. Our path will always lead us deeper into living for Jesus. How is your current path reflecting that deeper living?
Our continuing paths emerge as we change our focus. For Paul it was changing how he saw other. It was a change from human perceptions to divine focused perceptions. Instead of seeing Jesus as a threat to the rules and order he had known all his life, he saw Jesus as the Messiah, the Savior of the world. It was all about focus.
Consider Matthew 14:28-30. This is where Jesus is walking on the water out to the disciples who are struggling against the wind to get to their next destination. The first reaction of the disciples to Jesus’ appearance was fear. At Jesus calming words, Peter chose a new path. He asked Jesus to invite him out on the water. At the invitation, Peter steps out of the boat. While his focus in on Jesus, all is good. As soon as he begins to focus on the wind and waves, he sinks. It may have been Peter’s brash confidence that led him to step out on the water, but it was a lesson in complete reliance on Jesus that pushed him along his path to becoming the “rock” that Jesus envisioned him as.
Likewise, Paul was constantly working on his focus. A big piece of that focus was taking on the attitude of Christ. He points to a part of that attitude when he says, in verses 14-15, “The love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: one died for the sake of all; therefore, all died. 15 He died for the sake of all so that those who are alive should live not for themselves but for the one who died for them and was raised.” Living for Christ, controlled by the love of Christ. His focus, our focus!
As I thought about keeping focus – knowing where I’ve been, where I am, and where I am intending to go – I thought of the GPS in my car (Global Positioning System). Before GPS we used maps – I know, they are almost obsolete now day. I would find myself turning the map to match the way I was going. I got lost a lot! GOP, however, uses satellites to determine where you are at any given time, and tell you how to get where you want to go. It has limitations, however. Often it wants me to take the fastest route. That route often isn’t the most direct. When we drive to my brother’s home in Burleson, Texas, we take Highway 287 in a diagonal across the panhandle. The GPS argues with me almost endlessly. At Amarillo, it wants me to take the interstate east all the way to I35 south. It is a lot more miles, and we would miss some wonderful small towns. Again, when our family went to Orlando, we in advertently had the GPS set to take no toll roads. The first day, as we headed back to the rental house where we were staying, it took us on weird back streets. The route was less than direct and was really difficult to follow.
Maybe, as we think about our spiritual paths, we should be using JPS instead - Jesus Positioning System. Via the Holy Spirit, Jesus can guide our paths in the ways that lead to life eternal, that cause us to grow and become all that God has envisioned for us. JPS will train our focus to fashion our lives after the example of Christ – letting Christ’s love control us. That way we will always know where we are, and we will be more open to the paths that God wants us to take.
SO, here is another question for your consideration. “In my past, how have I seen God’s path laid out for me?” That is a look back to see where I have allowed God to most direct my paths. Then, “What am I doing now to discern God’s path forward from here? That second question is of paramount importance. We are a new creation in Christ. Do we need any course corrections? Do we just need an affirmation that we are on the right path?
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Pastor Paul Grossman