The big question that I want to ask and answer is, how do you sustain spiritual simplicity and every week we’ve had a song. Were any of you, kind of waiting, wondering what the song was going to be this week?
This is my favorite song of all the songs because it’s my era. It’s the O’Jays. It’s Get on Board the Love Train and we’re gonna talk about getting on a train.
I’ll explain what that train is, I’m going to explain theologically what that train looks like, and then I’m going to give you a game plan to get on, stay on, bring other people on a love train.
So, what is the love train? I sat down and you know what? I don’t know where the O’Jays are coming from but I know where God’s coming from.
And the love train to God is a supernatural community that is forcefully moving through his story that we call history, to bring life and love. He wants to bring that up there, his kingdom, a little bit of it, down here where people that have no idea that there is a God who is real, who is loving, and who cares.
And he wants you and me on this love train and he wants us to invite people by how we live and what we do. And the love train is the church of Jesus Christ.
And I’ll tell you what. The tracks are God’s sovereign, faithful, unchanging purposes. And he’s gonna fulfill his plan over time. And it’s a time to glorify himself, to bring all things under the reign of Christ, to present to himself a people to be loved and to be loved by Him in a new heaven and a new earth forever.
And the ticket has already been purchased. It was purchased by Christ on the cross for everyone and everyone who is willing to believe, to turn from your sin. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whosoever would believe in him shouldn’t perish but have eternal life. A quality of life that begins now. And that goes on forever and ever and ever.
It’s the love train. The architect is God the Father from the foundations of the earth. The engineer at the head of this train is the Lord Jesus Christ and we are his body and he is the firstborn from the dead. And the conductor going up and down the train checking on you and checking on me and wanting to know how’s it going and letting you know where the stops are is the Holy Spirit.
And it’s a real train and it’s kinda almost like a liquid relational train too because there’s times where we’re all spread out. Going all kind of different places, but God has these tracks and this train called his church is moving on it.
And he’s invited you to come aboard and to bring others. And it makes lots of stops. And if you want to write something under the stops? The frequent stops are wherever there’s a human need. That’s where the love train stops.
When there’s a lonely person, the love train stops. Someone needs aid, someone has a financial need, someone is depressed, someone is discouraged, someone in your neighborhood, someone at work, someone in your family.
Every time there’s a human need, the love train stops and the Spirit of God, dwelling inside your mortal body as you’re abiding in him, will take the truth of his Word out of your lips and your hands and your life and your money and your gifts and he’ll express the love of God through you.
And I want to say, get on board. Get on board. You get on board the love train, you’ll simplify your life. You’ll stop doing some stuff that’s meaningless. You’ll stop pretending.
You’ll stop trying to gain approval and you’ll stop all kind of things that seem so important now but six seconds after you die, you’ll look back on your life and realize, it was junk. It was silly. It was irrelevant. I was playing trivial pursuit but for real.
Well, you say to yourself, okay. I got it. If you’re an artist, the message of living a sustained, spiritually simple life is to get on board the love train.
We talked about the process, and I’ll review it for you at the end. You gotta surrender at a certain point of time in your life, you gotta step away from the world, you gotta step into community, you gotta step up and be who God made you to be, and then you gotta step out.
Now, let me give you the theology. II Corinthians. Open your Bible to about the middle and then go way to the right. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Romans, I Corinthians, then II Corinthians.
II Corinthians chapter 5. I want you to understand. This is God’s love train. This is the Apostle Paul and he so understands. In the midst of his hurt and his pain, he’s going to talk about it before this passage how he’s perplexed and how he’s discouraged and he’s down but not out and difficulty.
And then he’s going to get to the end of this passage in chapter 6 and he’s going to talk about what he’s actually been through.
And squeezed into all the adversity in life, he understands that life matters when you live and have an eternal perspective. And in verse 14, he tells us very clearly - he says - 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 lived should live no longer for themselves but for him who died and was raised again. So, just notice here. Christ’s love compels us.
What’s life like on the love train? It is not trying hard. It is not being moral. It’s not coming to church. And it’s not being religious. It is being connected in surrender where the Spirit of God through the word of God in authentic community. His love compels you.
Actually, the word is, it’s a picture of being hemmed in. If you’ve ever seen one of those movies, you know like, one of the old Batman movies where the walls are coming in and they’re trying to get out of there? Or a Indiana Jones movie?
The Apostle Paul is using that word to say, the love of God is just hemming me in. I’m compelled. I am so loved and see the plight of people apart from his love, I have to do this from the inside out.
And then notice he says. It changes his focus. He says, we’re convinced that one died, therefore, all died. And he died for those, here’s the focus. That we should live no longer for ourselves.
That’s big. That’s what surrender is about. This isn’t like Christ is a part of your life. This is where the central focus of why you get up and what you do and what you do with your time, your money, your energy, and your relationships. You don’t live for you anymore.
We no longer live for ourselves, but for him - Christ, who died and rose again.
And so the question is not, what will make me happy? It’s, what will make you happy? The question is not, what do I do with my time? The question is, what do I do with the time entrusted to me?
The question is not, what do I think I should do with my kids? The question is, what does your word say I ought to do and must do with my kids? See, it’s a radical change on the love train.
Then he goes on to say, in verse 16, it gives you new eyes. So, notice the purpose. From now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view. The once regarded, we regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
I have it memorized in a different version and it’s amazing when you’re reading these words and my brain’s saying another one.
In my version from many years ago: therefore, from now on, we recognize no man according to the flesh, even though we have known Christ according to the flesh.
He says, when you’re compelled by the love of God and you’re now not living for you, but you’re living for him, he says, you get a new set of eyes. And the color of their skin and their background and whether they’re smelly or clean; whether they’re cool or uncool; you don’t look at that any more.
You have that experience like Samuel the Prophet did when, you know, he said, hey I know God’s got a new king around here somewhere and the big tall handsome guy says, is that it? God says no.
And they go through all boys and finally it’s the youngest one. And then he says in that passage, I Samuel 16:7. For God doesn’t see as man sees. For man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord weighs the heart.
And when you’re on the love train, that’s what you start looking at. You look at people’s inside beauty. You start looking at where they’re really coming from. You look past all the exterior and that’s why the body of Christ starts looking real, real different.
With all different kinds of people. With all of our different baggage. All of our different struggles, all of our different backgrounds, all of our different colors, all of our different cultures.
It’s what the love train’s all about.
And not only that, do you get new eyes, but you get a new hope. Verse 17. He goes on to say. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away the new has come.
You know, we quote that, and I actually got in a little set of verses about your new life in Christ. And it’s absolutely true that when you come and turn from your sin and receive Christ as your Savior, if anyone is in Christ, you become a new creation.
The old passes away. Behold everything, notice the tense of the verb. “Becomes”, it’s a process. “Becomes new”.
But in the context of this passage, you know what it’s saying really? It says, we don’t look at people externally anymore. And now, he says, when we look at people, there is no single person or situation beyond the love and the redemption of Christ.
What Paul’s really saying is, this whole passage is about reconciliation. This whole passage is what happens when you’re on the love train and the love of God is pulsating through your spiritual veins.
He says, you know what, I don’t look at people the way I look at them anymore. Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he’s a new creature.
The old, stuffy dude, the addictions that you had. I mean, the stuff that we think God could never forgive, the stuff about people that we want to reach. Oh, they’re never open. I got news for you. If any man is in Christ, the old has passed away. God can do anything. He wants to do anything. He did that for people in this Book, he’s done it through church history, he’s done it in this church.
And so, you get a new focus. You get new eyes. You get a new hope. And then notice in verses 18 and 19, you get a new responsibility on the love train.
The love train is not a “sit back, it’s so good to be heaven bound”. What would thou haveth me to do, thine God? He says, well, I’ll tell you what I’ll have you to do. I’ll have you strap it on. Those guys in the NFL don’t even understand what contact is all about.
I’ve sent you into a spiritual warfare, and I have equipped you and I love people and I’ve sent you to get out and rescue them.
And so, notice what it says in verses 18 and 19. He says, all this is from God who reconciled us to himself through Christ and, underline this in your Bible, gave us the ministry of reconciliation.
That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ. And here’s the good news. Not counting men’s sins against them, and he’s committed to us this message of reconciliation.
Our message isn’t, clean your life up and start coming to church and you need to read the Bible a lot. Start doing this, this, this, this. Here’s the message. Guess what? God currently is not counting your sin against you.
He counted it and placed it on Christ. You have a ticket that’s been purchased on the love train. God loves you. And if you get honest with people and most people are running their own life, it’s not going very well.
Most marriages aren’t going very well. Most parenting isn’t going very well. Most people’s finances aren’t going very well. And if you talk real honestly with the people where it’s going really, really well. It’s a weird thing to have everything going great and have this huge emptiness in your life.
And God called you and God called me to be winsome and loving and caring and outwardly focused and to believe that no one is beyond his reach. And then you have this new responsibility.
You want to tell him. God’s not counting your sins against you. He loves you. He’s forgiven you. That’s good news. Would you like to receive the good news?
And then finally, he’s given you a new role and me a new role. Look at verse 20. He says, we are therefore, Christ ambassadors as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you, on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. The word “reconciled” just means become friends.
God’s just saying, I want to be friends with people. Sin is a barrier. Let’s get reconciled. It’s like, two people that are having trouble in a marriage, they get reconciled. People that were divorced and they realize, man, this is not working. And they repent. And they get some good counseling and they’re reconciled.
God says, I want to reconcile all people and you are my ambassadors. What’s an ambassador? An ambassador is someone from another country, from another land, who represents where he came from.
And your citizenship is heaven, and so is mine you’re in Christ and you’re heaven bound and you’re on the love train if you’re a Christ follower. And he says, I want you, like liquid, to seep into every kind of need and just love people where they’re at, don’t judge them, tell them the truth. Put your arm around them, don’t make it just words, actually help them, and tell them there’s a God who cares.
And then verse 21 is just this amazing, amazing verse of truth. It says, God made him Christ who had no sin, to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
We not only have a role as an ambassador, we now have a standing before the God of heaven that is identical to the Jesus of heaven in terms of God seeing us completely righteous. A son and a daughter.
That’s why the love of Christ compelled him. Paul’s a very, very, very religious man until he got saved. And then he realized how broken all of his religiosity was. And then he got in relationship with the living God and then he became a passionate, relational follower of the living Christ with unlimited power.
That little phrase: who was dead and came back to life. And Paul would remind us that same power dwells in you if you’re a Christ follower.
So, spiritual simplicity. How are we going to sustain it? Number one, here’s a little word picture. Get on the love train. And then second, remember the theology. When you’re rightly connected to the living Savior, the love of Christ will compel you.
This is not about duty. This isn’t about oughts. This isn’t about shoulds. This is about God’s love being so experienced because you step down. And you stepped away. And you stepped in. And you stepped up. And you can’t help yourself. You’re stepping out and reaching and caring for people.
And when that begins to happen, you don’t live for you anymore. You have a new focus, you live for Him. And the you get new eyes. You don’t see the same way. And then you, there’s a hope for everyone that you meet, no matter where they’ve been, what they’ve been through.
And then you realize, I got a new responsibility. My new responsibility isn’t just kid’s SAT scores or someday, someway I hope I’ll get married or I hope this job works out or maybe someday this thing will go, you know, IPO. Or maybe the…
There’s all kind of important things in life but your core responsibility is to be an ambassador, a representative of the living God wherever you are and that your ministry is reconciliation.
And he’s given you gifts and dreams and desires so that you can do that all kind of different ways and all kind of different businesses and all kind of different gifts and all kind of different roles.
And you can be moms and sisters and dads and nephews and nieces and schoolteachers and bricklayers and plumbers and we can just be all kind of things because he needs all kind of people that, at the end of the day, what we realize first and foremost, we’re on the love train.
And we’re imploring, we’re imploring people to be reconciled to God. Because he became sin, the sin offering, for them and for us that they and we, if we by faith, would receive it would become the righteousness of God.