Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Time to Get Real: Ambassadors for Christ

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. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
 II Corinthians 5:18-21

A few months back the new U.S. ambassador to China Mr. Gary Locke garnered quite a bit of attention when some photos emerged. These photos included Mr. Locke buying his own coffee in an airport and then later he and his family carrying their own bags out of another airport. If you are having trouble understanding why this was considered newsworthy in China it might help for me to tell you that in China even low level government officials have secretaries and personal assistants that do things like this for them. Journalist Chen Weihua explained, "To many Americans, there was probably nothing unusual about this. But to most Chinese people, the scene was so unusual it almost defied belief." It is kind of surprising that doing something so simple could cause such a stir, but it did. In fact, Mr. Locke's actions have some Chinese people rethinking how their government officials spend money.*

Gary Locke is an excellent example of what it means to be an ambassador. An ambassador represents their people, their customs, and their mission to a foreign country. It is always their goal to reflect positively on those whom they represent, even (and especially) when doing so means that they are out of step with the culture of the country they serve in.

It's interesting that Scripture calls us "Christ's ambassadors." Now I know that in the original context of II Corinthians chapter 5 Paul is talking about himself and his group of ministers/missionaries, however, in the grater context of Scripture and considering the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), I think it is more than appropriate to apply this passage to all believers at least in some measure. The old saying holds true, you may be the only Jesus some people meet. Yes, 21st century culture is foreign and very different from the way we are called to live our lives as representatives of Jesus and His coming kingdom; but like Mr. Locke sometimes it is the ways that we are different that make our way of life most attractive.

The above passage of Scripture says that God has trusted the message of reconciliation to us, and He has. He has entrusted it to all of us. We are all called to preach the gospel and to make disciples wherever we go. We are all called to live as salt and light in this world and to be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have (I Peter 3:15). Paul even says that it is "as though God were making His appeal through us," because in a way He is. Yes, it is really the Holy Spirit working in people's hearts that changes them from sinners to believers, but God often chooses to use people like you and me to work in coordination with that Spirit. The Spirit will bless something you say or do and use that to minister to a lost person's soul and call them to repentance.

Of course we are most useful to God when we are willing to step out on faith and try to be used by Him. "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." Are you really going to respond to that amazing gift by just going halfway in your Christian life...just doing the minimum but never really giving God your all? It is time for you to get real about your faith. God deserves better than your halfway. Not only does God deserve better, but what about your friends and your family? They need to be told the truth about Jesus and to have a chance to escape the coming judgment. And what about you? Don't you want to stand before your Savior with a clear conscience on that last day? We won't be perfect, but join me today in praying and asking God to somehow use us to draw other people to Him. Ask Him to help you give Him your all and not to be paralyzed by fear any longer. Ask Him to give you opportunities to share the good news, then, when the time comes, step out on faith and trust Him to bless it. God can use the smallest action or word done in faith.

For further reading...
  • Ephesians 6:19-21- Paul uses the metaphor of being an ambassador in this passage as well.
  • I Chronicles 18:9- King David's advice to his son Solomon. Notice he doesn't urge his son to serve God with half-hearted devotion.

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