February 2016

Last month I began our journey into 2016 with an introduction to 2 Corinthians 5:20 (ESV) “20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Here is a reminder of my first paragraph.

Ambassadors for Christ is our theme for 2016.  A dictionary defines an ambassador as: “an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country:” Let us work backwards through the definition. To a foreign country means that the world we know, where we live and breath and work and play is not our home. This earth, the United States, Michigan and Royal Oak or wherever you reside is your foreign country. It has different values, attitudes, beliefs, and expectations. If you are completely comfortable with life in the United States then you have a reconciliation problem with Almighty God. In the United States trespasses against all God’s laws and precepts, rebellion against His presence and majesty, and outright denial of the Lord are the norm. Look around at this society, lying, cheating, stealing, murder, violence and hatred are the normal. If this is not a “foreign” country to you your connection to Jesus must be very weak. (see January for the rest)

I want to explore this topic in much greater detail over the next several months. I will take pieces each month for a deeper systematic evaluation. Let us begin by looking at the element that we are representatives to a foreign country. It is challenging to think about the United States of America, or Michigan or Royal Oak as a foreign country. We were born here, raised, educated, employed, raised our families and participated in the life of the community with complete ease. We understand the language, mores, habits and customs of this place with absolute ease. The issues of “foreignness” is not rooted in the physical but in the spiritual. It is about where we really live not where we physically live.

Listen to these Scriptures: Romans 12:1–2 (ESV) “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Or 1 Thessalonians 4:1 (ESV) “Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more.” And Ephesians 5:15–16 (ESV) “15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” Finally Philippians 1:27 (ESV) “27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,”

The “foreign” land we live in is not so much physical as it is values, attitudes, beliefs and expectations. Another term that we can use to express the foreignness would be “worldview.” This is a radical difference between America’s worldview and the Kingdom of God’s worldview. By the way we can easily substitute the world’s worldview or a human worldview for our American worldview. It represents any system (worldview) which denies the sovereignty of God and a devotion to serve Christ. Our American worldview is radically different from the Kingdom which has sent us to be ambassadors. Paul exhorts us “ do not be conformed to this world” but we think that this world is normal. We live, just like the rest of humanity, in rebellion and hostility to Almighty God. We live just like the “gentiles” of this world. I am using the term gentiles here not in an ethnic sense but in a spiritual sense of alienated from God and hostile to His Kingdom’s mores, values, rules, habits and expectations.

The origin of this failure is rooted in our understanding of God’s transforming work in believers. When we are born again we become new creations in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV) “17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” When we become this new creation all the old ways have to die. We are no longer ruled by the passions of the flesh (bodily appetites) or the customs and practices of the people around us. We are new in Christ. Here is our new focus: Philippians 4:8 (ESV) “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” As you think about theses things do them. Let us live as pleasing to God, not as pleasing to Satan, gentiles, neighbors, television or the rest of this world. Let our lives shine for Christ. Let what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent be the normal for our existence. Let us set an example before this world of the Kingdom’s characteristics: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent. Live this out every day in every way.

God has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation, inviting everyone around us to leave their “worldview” and enter into the glorious liberty of the Kingdom of God’s worldview. Inviting them to become followers of Jesus. Until we truly see ourselves as aliens and strangers in this world we will not understand the imperative of God’s commission to be ambassadors of reconciliation. This world and all its worldviews are under a sentence of death and alienation  from life. Only Jesus and the Kingdom’s worldview offers liberty, life and love.

Will you be The Kingdom’s ambassador?