Here’s the second sermon from a short summer teaching series preached at my home church Belmont Chapel. If you’d like to view the accompanying PPT then you can find it following this link …

SLIDE 1 This morning we’re continuing our short summer teaching series looking together at the life and ministry of the apostle Paul. If you were here last Sunday you’ll know that we started out in our series by taking a look at the nature and extent of the good news of the gospel as well as looking for evidence of change in Paul’s life as the result of God being at work within it. And now, this morning, we’re going to follow on from last week by looking to discover what lay at the heart of Paul’s motivation to serve God. As I commented last week our intention throughout this series is not to focus solely on Paul’s experiences in isolation but rather we’ll be looking to learn how best we can apply some of the lessons Paul learnt in his Christian life in our own Christian lives today.

SLIDE 2 If you’d like to extend your consideration of Paul’s life and ministry through some additional reading then I’d recommend Michael Bird’s recent book on Paul entitled, A Bird’s eye view of Paul – the man, his mission and his message.

SLIDE 3 In March 1923, in an interview with The New York Times, the English mountaineer George Leigh Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest. His reply, now famous, not least because Mallory himself was lost on the mountain in the following year, comprised of three short words. He said to the reporter, ‘… because it’s there …’. Whether in fact Mallory went on to become the first man to climb to the summit of Everest, some 29 years before the recognised first ascent by Sir Edmund Hillary is still hotly debated, yet despite the uncertainty of his success Mallory’s motivation was straightforwardly simple. SLIDE 4 Writing in his diary soon after that now almost apocryphal interview Mallory wrote, ‘… if you cannot understand that there is something in a man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it … that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward … then you won’t see why we go … what we get from this adventure is just sheer joy … that is what life means and what life is for …’.

George Leigh Mallory’s motivation for climbing, those simple three words, were enough to drive him relentlessly forward in his determination to become the first person to set foot on top of the highest mountain in the world. It was a goal, of course, in the pursuit of which he eventually lost his life since Mallory disappeared whilst climbing Everest in 1924.

SLIDE 5 The passage we’re going to read and consider together this morning is all about that very same theme, that of motivation; but not the necessary motivation required to climb high mountains however, but rather, the motivation required to serve God effectively. If you have a Bible with you and you’ll like to follow the reading we’re going to read from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, starting at Ch.5 vs. 11 – if you’ve got a Church Bible with you then you’ll find the reading on Page 1096 or, if you’d prefer, please follow the words on the screen behind me, or just listen.

SLIDE 6,7 & 8

Read :       2 Corinthians Ch.5 vs.11-21

Once more, as last week we have the opportunity to stick fairly closely to the passage since it’s quite brief. By way of context it’s simply worth noting that, in the particular section of Paul’s letter that our reading comes from, Paul has been reminding these 1st century Christians that the ministry of every Christian is to serve Jesus Christ by making Him known in the world. SLIDE 8 Paul writes towards the end of Ch.2, that God uses Christians to, ‘… spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere … for we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing …’ (Ch.2 vs.14a-15)

I don’t know about you, but it’s my contention that when it comes to Christian service and ministry we don’t lack knowledge of what it is we ought to be doing, but what we sometimes do lack is the motivation and the drive to do it. If you’re anything like me there are times when my spiritual sight becomes a little hazy; times when I become myopic regarding God’s bigger picture; I see clearly the here and now, but I fail to glimpse very much regarding the eternal perspective of my Christian life and service.

And so, with those thoughts in mind, we’re going to look at three key motivators that for Paul provided the necessary impetus for him to continue in his serving God. These are, I would suggest, three motivators that I believe are just as relevant for us today as we seek, with His help, to be effective disciples.

Firstly then … SLIDE 10

  • Paul is motivated in his service for Jesus Christ because of …the verdict of a righteous judge (vs.11 & 12)

Let’s read vs. 11 again, ‘… since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade people …’. Often times in the book of Acts Paul’s style of engagement evangelistically, his approach in preaching the gospel, is described as one of persuasion. Paul in no sense sought to manipulate or to coerce people regarding the claims of Jesus Christ but rather he sought to set out the truth plainly and reasonably. And in this verse tells us that one of the motivating factors that fuelled Paul’s desire to persuade people concerning the claims of Jesus Christ was his clear understanding of what it means to fear the Lord. Now in order for us to understand a little more about what Paul is alluding to here we need to go back and read the couple of verses found immediately before the section we have already read. SLIDE 10 If we look back to vs.9 we read these words, ‘… so we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that everyone may receive what is due to them for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad …’ (2 Corinthians Ch.5 vs.9-10).

What Paul is reminding his readers of is that there will be a future day when everyone, without exception, Paul included, will stand in front of Jesus Christ the judge. Now it’s worth noting in passing that the word we have translated here in the TNIV simply as appear is a word than means much more than merely turning up since the sense of the word carries with it the thought of being laid bare, of having our lives open to scrutiny, stripped of all of our pretensions and hypocrisies.

Whilst we may at times seek to deny it the real truth is that all of us, to some degree or another, have a tendency to hide much of the truth about ourselves from each other. But, says Paul, on that day nothing will be hidden from view, all our thoughts, our desires, our motives, in fact all that we are, and have been, will be revealed. It’s a day, says Paul that we ought to fear, not in the sense of a cringing terror but rather through an attitude of awe-filled respect. The Bible tells us plainly that if we know and trust Jesus Christ then the events of that day won’t cast into doubt our final destination since, as Paul writes in the middle of his letter to his friends in Rome, ‘… there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus …’ (Romans Ch.8 vs.1), yet there will, all the same, be an appraisal made of our lives. So Paul’s fear of the Lord is the recognition that it’s God’s opinion and His alone that ultimately matters. It’s the kind of fear that ought to motivate us to serve Him and to please Him.

Of course many people are driven in live simply by a desire to impress others, and there were those, just like that, in the church at Corinth. They took pride in what was seen. They wanted to look impressive, to appear spiritual, and they boasted about ecstatic spirit-fuelled experiences. But Paul stresses in these verses his ministry is one of plainness and clarity of presentation as he seeks to persuasively present the good news of the gospel.

Could it be true that part of the reason we are, at times, half-hearted in our witness for Jesus Christ is that so often we’re concerned about what others might think of us, and because of that, we lose sight of the reality of that coming day when we will stand before Jesus Christ as judge. And what that day will undoubtedly reveal to you and I will be the utter foolishness of caring about any other verdict on our lives other than the verdict of Jesus Christ, the righteous judge.

Let’s move on to look at Paul’s second key motivator for service that we find here in these verses … SLIDE 11

  • Paul is motivated in his service for Jesus Christ because of …the love of a sacrificial Saviour (vs.14-17)

Let’s read together from vs.14, ‘… for Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again …’. Paul’s second motivating force is quite simply the love of God. And whilst many people are compelled by a desire to be loved Paul, in contrast, is compelled by the conviction that he is loved – and not just that, but crucially that all are loved by God. And the love that compels Paul isn’t the kind of sentimental, notionally romantic kind of greeting card love, but this is love as expressed in the sacrificial death of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. And it’s a love that reveals a particular understanding of what Jesus Christ’s death achieved, since Christ took on Himself the punishment for sin that should rightfully be ours. That’s why, as I said earlier, a Christian never need fear the judgement seat of Christ in respect of eternity since we know that the debt incurred by us, because of our sinfulness, has been cancelled out by Jesus’ vicarious death. But, says Paul, this isn’t something that we should understand only in the future tense, but rather it’s something that ought to make a seismic difference to the way we live our lives now. And that difference should be evidenced by living lives no longer lived for self, but instead, lived for God.

SLIDE 12 David Livingstone, the Scottish missionary and explorer, wrote these words in his diary as he considered his response to God’s love, ‘… People talk of the sacrifice I have made in spending so much of my life in Africa. Can that be called a sacrifice which is simply acknowledging a great debt we owe to our God, which we can never repay ? It is emphatically no sacrifice. Rather it is a privilege. Anxiety, sickness, suffering, danger, foregoing the common conveniences of this life – these may make us pause, and cause the spirit to waver, and the soul to sink; but let this only be for a moment. SLIDE 13 All these are nothing compared with the glory which shall later be revealed in and through us. I never made a sacrifice. Of this we ought not to talk, when we remember the great sacrifice which He made, who left His Father’s throne on high to give Himself for us …’

Paul has a deep rooted conviction that God is a personal relational God – a God who has a yearning desire to draw us back into community with Him. And Paul understands that God’s offer of salvation extends to everyone and because of that Paul’s drive to live for Christ is a drive to share Christ with those who as yet don’t know Him as Lord and Saviour. If you and I lack drive and motivation then we need to better understand God’s love and we need to appropriate Paul’s prayer for his friends in Ephesus where he wrote, SLIDE 14 ‘… I pray that you being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge …’ (Ephesians Ch.3 vs.17b-19b)

And then lastly, the third of Paul’s motivating factors for service … SLIDE 15

  • Paul is motivated in his service for Jesus Christ because of …the commission of a gracious King (vs.18-21)

Let’s read again from vs.18, where Paul writes, ‘… all this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 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. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us …’. What we discover here in these verses is that Paul’s motivation for service wasn’t obtained solely by looking forward with an eye towards appearing before Jesus the righteous judge and neither was it just looking back and considering the cross, but also, Paul had a clear conviction that God had personally called him. Three times in the verses through to vs.21, we hear Paul saying that it was God who had given him the task – he had been commissioned by the King of Kings. He was, says Paul, Christ’s ambassador, entrusted with the express task of making known the will of the King by speaking out on the King’s behalf.

As an aside it’s probably worth noting that as an apostle Paul spoke with the authority of Christ, on behalf of Christ in a special and unique way; in the same way, in fact, as the OT prophets had been used by God many centuries earlier. Yet in a more general sense the same commission has been entrusted to all those who have been reconciled to God; you and I, if we know and trust Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord. God has commissioned each and every one of us to take on the task of making His appeal to the world to be reconciled to Him – we are Christ’s ambassadors.

And this theme of reconciliation has much to offer by way of insight into helping us get to grips with what the heart of the gospel message is all about. The good news of the gospel presupposes that everyone is at enmity with God and is isolated from Him; that we are all, because of our sin, out of relationship with a Holy God. Our sin provokes God’s righteous anger and we remain outside of His family because of our continued rebellion. The dire truth is that this isn’t a relationship we can mend; we cannot make amends for what we have done, but wonderfully as Paul states here, despite being the offended party, God takes the initiative and through the sacrificial death of His Son deals with the root cause of that alienation – your sin and mine.

Look again at vs.21, ‘… God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God …’. The good news of the gospel message speaks of a breathtaking exchange – our sinfulness exchanged for Christ’s righteousness; what amazing grace! Notice too that the work of reconciliation is talked about in the past tense in vs.18. The work was accomplished by Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave. But the work of making it know continues in the present tense and that work has been entrusted to you and I. Our task, as Christ’s ambassadors, is to urge people to be reconciled to God.

Surely we should be both amazed and humbled by the thought that God expressly chose you and I to publicise the greatest piece of news the word could ever get to hear. The challenge is, of course, does the world hear it clearly from me ?

SLIDE 16 In closing let me leave you with a few questions. What factors keep you motivated in your service for God ? Am I moving on with God or have I become a spiritual couch potato ? Does the accountability that comes from knowing that one day I’ll stand before Jesus Christ inspire and motivate me to please Him ? Does Jesus Christ’s death on the cross draw out from me such a debt of gratitude that I can’t help but make Him known ? Am I really signed up to the responsibility that comes with being a commissioned disciple in the service of the King of Kings ?