Showing and Telling the Good News
Passage: 2 Corinthians 5:11–5:21
How can we show and tell the good news of Jesus? We need Christ-focused motives. We need a Christ-focused message. We need to do Christ-focused ministry.
When I was in kindergarten, we periodically had “show and tell” days. How many of you know what I’m talking about? It’s a day when you get to bring in something to show to your class and tell them about it. Maybe you would bring in your pet rabbit or something you made or something interesting you found. I really liked show and tell but I don’t think I’ve grown out of it.
When Katie and I were dating in college, she came with me to my parents’ house and I couldn’t help but do some show and tell with her. I grew up in the country so I spent a lot of time in the woods building forts. Over the weekend at my parents’ house, I took Katie through the woods so I could show her my forts and tell her about them. She was a good sport and thankfully still married me.
I still really enjoy showing people things I’ve built or something cool I bought. I also really like getting tours of people’s house and I like taking people on tours of our house. I’d imagine many of you are the same way but maybe with different things. Maybe you whip out your wallet or phone to show and tell people about your kids. Or maybe you take it out to show and tell people about the vacation you just went on or the crazy storm clouds you saw or the fish you caught or the sports game you were at. Maybe you show and tell people about your new car or the landscaping you had done or the new phone you just got or the project you just finished. Whatever it is, when you have something you enjoy and are excited about, you want to show and tell others about it.
Today, we are finishing our series called “Living the Good News Together.” As a church, we’ve been learning how we can live in light of the good news about Jesus together.
Take a moment to flip to the graphic on the last page of your song book (the same graphic is on our What Are We All About page). This is the roadmap for what we have been covering. First, we covered our mission: as a community we are surrendering all of life to Jesus and inviting others to do the same. Our Community Practices answer how we are going to do our mission. How do we surrender all of life to Jesus? How do we invite others to do the same? By practicing Believing the Gospel, Living as Family, Loving as Servants, Going as Messengers, and Relying on the Spirit.
And why do we do all of this? Today we are focusing on our vision at the bottom of the page: we do this so that as the family of God we can show and tell the good news of Jesus to every man, woman, and child.
We do show and tell with things we are really excited about and that we want others to know about. The same goes with the good news of Jesus.
We are going to look at 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 in order to learn more about showing and telling the good news of Jesus. The big question this passage answers is: how can we show and tell the good news of Jesus? How can we show and tell the good news of Jesus?
In this passage, the apostle Paul is explaining how he goes about showing and telling the good news of Jesus. From him, we can learn how we should go about it as well. Paul gives us three answers to our big question.
Let’s look at 2 Corinthians chapter 5 verses 11 through 15 for our first answer. It’s on page 966 of the black bibles we’ve provided.
We need Christ-focused motives (2 Corinthians 5:11-15).
This section of the passage is all about motives - why does Paul do what he does. He gives us his first motivation in verse 11: the fear of the Lord. “Fear of the Lord” is a really important phrase in the bible and you will be greatly helped if you can remember what it means. If you “fear the Lord”, it doesn’t mean that you cower before him or want to hide from him. It means that you have a deep reverence, awe, and respect for him. It means you are impressed by him. As a result, you put him first in your life. You recognize him as the most important person in your life, so he’s at the top of your priority list.
Where does this deep reverence for the Lord Jesus come from? This verse starts with a “therefore”, which connects what Paul is about to say with what he has just said. Paul just got done saying that he makes it his aim in life to please the Lord, Jesus Christ. Why? Because he knows that everyone will stand before Jesus one day to have their life evaluated.
This is where verse 11 picks up. He writes:
11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. (2 Corinthians 5:11a)
Jesus is the most important person in Paul’s life because he knows Jesus will evaluate how he lived his life one day. So he makes it his aim to please Jesus, his Lord. And how does he do that? He says, “We persuade others.” Paul and his team around him, try to persuade others to turn to Jesus by spreading the gospel.
Jesus’ importance in Paul’s life explains the second part of verse 12. He says:
But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. (2 Corinthians 5:11a-13)
There is a group of people who have come to this church and said, “Why are you listening to that Paul guy? He isn’t very impressive.” But Paul is saying, “God knows us. He knows our heart. And I hope you do too. You saw how we conducted ourselves when we were with you. I’m not trying to make you think more of us and be impressed with us, but I want you to remember our conduct and integrity so you can have confidence about us because you received the good news of Jesus from us. Don’t be fooled by these people who focus on outward impressiveness and not about what is in the heart. They are turning you from us by saying we aren’t impressive but that shouldn’t be your criteria.”
Other parts of the letter tell us that Paul’s opponents were putting a lot of stock in having dramatic spiritual experiences in front of other people. In verse 13 Paul says that if he has dramatic spiritual experiences, that is between him in God. He isn’t going to impress them with that in order to persuade them to believe the gospel about Jesus. He wants the message of Jesus to stand on its own so he tells it to them with a sound mind.
Paul’s first motivation is the fear of the Lord, so he isn’t worried about being impressive to people. He just wants them to know Jesus.
His second motive comes from Christ’s love for him. He says in verse 14:
14 For the love of Christ controls us, (2 Corinthians 5:14a)
Paul and his team tell people about Christ because they have been deeply changed by Christ’s love; it has gripped them and it compels them to tell others about Jesus. And how does he know that Christ loves him? He continues in verse 14:
because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14b-15)
He knows that Christ loves him because Jesus died for everyone and that includes him. And because Jesus died for everyone, that means everyone can experience the same love of Christ that Paul has experienced.
What does it mean that because Jesus died for everyone, therefore all have died? First, it means Jesus died so we might be forgiven for our sins and freed from the penalty we deserve for them. We’ve all disobeyed God. We’ve all committed cosmic treason against the king of the universe and the penalty for that is death. Jesus died in our place to offer us freedom from this penalty for our sins.
Second, it means Jesus died so that we might be freed from the power of our sin. Because Jesus died for our sin, we can to die to sin as well. In verse 15 he says that Christ died for all. Why? So that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. Here we have the essence of sin and the essence of salvation. The essence of sin is living for yourself. But the essence of salvation is freedom from sin so you can now live for Jesus who loved you and died for you.
The big question this passage answers is: how can we show and tell the good news of Jesus? The answer this section gives us is: we need Christ-focused motives. We need Christ-focused motives.
Paul has two Christ-focused motives: the fear of the Lord and the love of the Lord. Paul knows his life will be evaluated by Christ so he focuses on pleasing Christ. Paul also is convinced that Christ died for him so he is focused on Christ’s love for him. These are his Christ-focused motives for showing and telling the good news about Jesus.
But I’d imagine some of us have a problem with this. We don’t like the idea of Jesus evaluating our lives. We don’t like the idea of standing before him and receiving what is due for how we have lived on earth. That creates worry and anxiety in us. We don’t think that goes very well with love and grace.
But the beauty of this passage is that Christ’s evaluation of our life and Christ’s love for us are side by side. Paul isn’t the least bit worried about Jesus’ love for him. Jesus’ love for him is one of his motivations! He isn’t worried that Jesus will reject him at the end of his life. Jesus died for him and paid for all his failures to obey perfectly.
Knowing Jesus will evaluate his life doesn’t produce worry in Paul; it motivates him to please Jesus. Jesus is his king who has given him a job to do and now he wants to complete that job and hear “well done good and faithful servant” from his Lord.
When Jesus brings us into his kingdom, he gives us both privileges and responsibilities. We don’t earn the privileges. We don’t work for them. He gives them to us free of charge. Then he gives us responsibilities as servants in his kingdom. How well we execute those responsibilities doesn’t determine whether we will enjoy the privileges of his love, mercy, compassion, grace, and salvation. But we will stand before Jesus one day and he will evaluate how faithful we were to carry out the responsibilities he gave us.
My father-in-law is a very gentle and gracious man. He has four daughters and he loves all four. He spent time on the floor to play house with each of them. I’ve never heard him raise his voice and neither has Katie. Katie’s dad is patient, slow to anger, generous, humble, and kind.
At the same time, Katie cares very much about pleasing him. The worst words that she could ever hear from her dad are, “I’m disappointed.” Why? Not because he will be mad at her or reject her or stop loving her. No, it’s because she knows how much he loves her and how much he has given for her. This makes him an extremely important person in her life. She loves her dad and deeply respects him so she wants him to be pleased with her.
It’s the same for us and our Lord. We don’t make it our aim to please him because he is going to reject us and stop loving us. We already have our Lord’s love; now we want our Lord’s pleasure. And we want him to be pleased with us because we love him and deeply respect him as our king. He died for us so that we could no longer live for ourselves but for him!
The good news of these verses is that Jesus loves you and it’s possible to please him. It isn’t an impossible task. It also means our lives count. They matter. King Jesus brings us into his kingdom and he gives us significant and important work to do in order to further his purposes.
In verses 11 through 15, we learn that we need Christ-focused motives if we are to show and tell the good news of Jesus. Let’s look at the second part of this passage in verses 16 through 19.
We need a Christ-focused message (2 Corinthians 5:16-19).
In these verses, Paul is going to explain the message he tells people. Because he knows that Jesus’ death makes it possible to be free from the penalty and power of sin, Paul says in verse 16:
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. (2 Corinthians 5:16)
To regard someone according to the flesh means you just look on the surface. When Paul first heard about Jesus, he thought he was a fraud. On the surface, Jesus isn’t very impressive. He claimed to be the Savior they were all waiting for but then he suffered and died as a criminal. Even though Jesus’ disciples were telling people that Jesus died to forgive people of their sins, Paul wasn’t buying it.
But now he is convinced that Jesus’ death changed everything. So he no longer thinks Jesus is unimpressive. He is the most impressive of all! His death has the power to undo the effects of sin! Which is why in verse 17 he says:
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Though sin causes us to live for ourselves which brings death, pain, and suffering into our lives, Jesus can undo all of that! He can make all things new! He can repair anyone’s life; he can undo the effects of sin and selfishness; he can undo the effects of pride; he can repair us, restore us, and renew us.
Paul continues in verse 18:
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself 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 entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
The key to making us new is to reconnect us with God. God created us and he can recreate us to be what we were meant to be.
But restoration projects are costly. If you buy a house that’s a fixer-upper, it is going to cost a lot of money, a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of hard work to make a fixer-upper new.
But imagine you are the one who made it into a fixer-upper. You moved in and trashed the place. You didn’t take care of anything; you were reckless and broke things. There’s holes in the drywall, broken windows, stains in the carpet, and garbage everywhere. But the worst part is, you aren’t even the owner of the house, so you have destroyed a house that doesn’t even belong to you.
This is the situation and condition we all are in with God. We are all fixer-uppers. Because we have lived for ourselves, we have brought ruin and destruction to our lives. And because God created us, we don’t own ourselves. We belong to him but we have disregarded what he wants for us.
But God comes in and says: I am willing to not count your wrongs against you AND I’m willing to make you beautiful once again. You are a fixer-upper, but I want to take you and make you new.
God does this through Jesus Christ. Even though we made a mess of our relationship with him and we have wronged him by living for ourselves, God will pay the price to both restore our relationship and to repair us. This is the message of reconciliation! That though we have all lived for ourselves, God will pay for it out of his own pocket through Christ.
The big question this passage answers is: how can we show and tell the good news of Jesus? The answer this section gives us is: we need a Christ-focused message. We need a Christ-focused message.
Who has made all this possible? Jesus Christ has! Therefore our message must be focused on him. We tell people the good news of Jesus. We want people to be impressed with him. We want people to know that he has done everything necessary to reconcile us to God. Without him we have no hope. A relationship with God is only possible through Jesus. Salvation is only possible through Jesus. Forgiveness is only possible through Jesus. Heaven instead of hell is only possible through Jesus. Righteousness instead of condemnation is only possible through Jesus.
The problem is that both believers and not yet believers can be impressed with something other than Jesus. First, we can be impressed with our sin. We can think our sin is too much for Jesus to forgive. Or we can think someone else is just too bad to ever be a Christian. We need to be impressed with the Savior who can take away anyone’s sin, no matter how much or how great.
Second, we can be impressed with our good works. Instead of clinging to Jesus as the one who reconciles us with God, we can rely on our own goodness. Many people hope that they have done enough good deeds to outweigh their bad. But no good deed can make up for our disobedience and unfaithfulness, just like getting your spouse a dozen roses wouldn’t erase the fact that you cheated on them. When Christians sin, they often think they need to work their way back into God’s love. We need to be impressed with Jesus who paid for all the damage we did to our relationship with God.
So far Paul has given us the Christ-focused motives and the Christ-focused message we need in order to show and tell the good news of Jesus. Let’s look at our final section in verse 20 and 21.
We need to do Christ-focused ministry (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).
Because Paul has been given the ministry of reconciliation and because he has been entrusted with the message of reconciliation, he says in verse 20:
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Paul shows us how to do the ministry of reconciliation here. The word Pauls uses to describe his ministry is “ambassador.” An ambassador is not sent with their own authority or with their own message or their own plans. They are sent to represent someone else; they are sent to do the will of someone else. In this case, Paul is a representative of Christ, sent Christ-focused message about God has done through Christ to reconcile rebellious, disobedient, selfish sinners to himself. Reconciliation is possible through Christ, but the appeal for reconciliation comes through Christ’s ambassadors.
Paul sees that the Corinthians need to come back to God. They have wandered and strayed, so he says: we implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Verse 21 repeats the Christ-focused message that makes reconciliation possible:
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)
If you want to memorize a great one-verse gospel message, this is a good one. It tells us about Jesus’ sinless life: he knew no sin. He always did God’s will, he never disobeyed, he never rebelled, he never ignored God, he never told God “no”, he never said “yes” to sin. Jesus lived a perfect life. Yet for our sake, God laid on him the penalty for our sin. Why? So that in Christ we might exchange our guilt for his righteousness.
The big question this passage answers is: how can we show and tell the good news of Jesus? The answer this section gives us is: we need to do Christ-focused ministry. We need to do Christ-focused ministry.
Who do we represent? Not ourselves. We represent Christ. We come on behalf of the king to make an appeal on his behalf: be reconciled to God. Some people will accept the offer of forgiveness and some people will reject it. In so doing, they aren’t rejecting us. They are rejecting Christ, whom we represent.
We are always representing a kingdom and we are always representing a king. The question is whether that kingdom is Jesus’ or our own kingdom of self. Being an ambassador includes both “showing” and “telling.” So which kingdom are people seeing and hearing from you?
The key to showing and telling the good news of Jesus is to first be deeply affected by it yourself. When the good news of Jesus has taken root in you, it will flow out through you.
When you believe that Jesus is a King who is generous, forgiving, loving, patient, kind, gentle, faithful, and compassionate, then you will show this same good news to others. Your life shows people what your king is like. Your life shows people what sort of kingdom you represent.
Way before you have the opportunity to tell someone about Jesus, you are showing them what Jesus is like by how you treat your spouse, how you parent your kids, how you interact with your neighbors, how you do your job, how you treat cashiers and waitresses. Everything you do is showing people what the King you serve is like. Is he generous or stingy? Is he kind or harsh? Is he humble or proud? Is he welcoming or distant? When the good news of Jesus has taken root in you, it will flow out through your actions.
When the good news of Jesus has taken root in you, it will flow out through your words. The good news is even though we were far from God, he came close to us. Even though our sins were many, he made them white as snow. Even though our debt was mountainous, he paid it all. Even though we stood condemned, he served our sentence. Even though we were the worst fixer-upper on the market, he bought us and fixed us up. When we truly believe that the good news that God has stepped into the mess of our lives to make us new, we will want to tell others.
It all starts with the gospel that tells us of Christ’s love for us to give his life to free us from sin. The Christ-focused message is what gives us Christ-focused motives to do Christ-focused ministry.
When it comes to show and tell, we easily do it with things that we enjoy or have have impressed us The same is true with Jesus. When you become impressed with his love, his mercy, his grace, his kindness, his compassion, his care for you, you will want the world to know the treasure you’ve found. It will come easily.
As a church, we do this as a family. The crown is at the center of our logo surrounded by the dots to show we are surrendering our lives to Jesus and inviting others to do the same together. We show people what Jesus is like by living as family and loving as servants and we tell them what he is like by going as messengers. And we do these by believing the gospel and relying on the Spirit.
We practice these at our worship gatherings, in gospel communities, and in gospel fluency groups.