Ambassadors for Christ
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (NKJV)
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. 18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
What was Paul talking about when he says if we are in Christ we are a new creation? Paul was telling us that we are not just forgiven of our sins, we are changed. This transformation of heart is necessary if we are to move from simply believing and into people of action.
Think back for a moment to when your relationship with Jesus first began. If you were raised in church, you may not even remember the first time you heard about Jesus. He was always a part of your life. At some point, though, we who are called Christians come into a personal relationship with Christ. We receive that wonderful free gift called salvation and whether we are a child, a teen or adult, we realize our life will never be the same.
But, sometimes the newness of being a Christian wears off. Where we started out reading the Bible every day we become distracted and might go several days at a time without reading even a brief devotional. We might miss church services, and the more we miss, the less we miss being there. It is vital that we progress from being believing Christians to active intentional disciples.
When we read the Acts of the Apostles, we get the idea that the first churches were on fire for God with no problems whatsoever. And they were. After all, they added up to 5000 people to their numbers daily. And we think oh, if we could only model ourselves after these first disciples everything would be great. But Paul didn’t write letters to the Corinthians to tell them how great they were doing. No, he wrote to correct the errors that had developed.
The church at Corinth was in the middle of a pagan culture, and the new converts didn’t go from having no religion to Christianity. They had been worshipping gods, but just not the one true and living God. Many of them saw no problem with continuing their pagan worship while worshipping the God of the Bible, but to Paul that would have been a compromise that the church could not tolerate. Other problems became apparent. Factions developed in the church regarding leadership. False teaching became a problem. The church was a mess.
So Paul reminds the Corinthians of the importance of living as a new creation. When God reconciled us through Jesus’ death on the cross, He brought us back to Him, so that we could be in relationship with Him. We can only be in relationship with God when we turn away from sin. Does this mean we will never sin again? No, but it does mean we won’t seek sin. We will begin to make right choices. We cannot keep one foot in a muddy puddle of sin, while trying to plant our other foot on the solid rock. It doesn’t work that way.
You see, God wants us to respond to His love by choosing good over evil, light over dark, and service to others over self. But we cannot do this by ourselves. We must allow Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit to enable us to accomplish every good thing to do His will.
When I was a new Christian, I was so young that I thought now that Jesus was my Savior I should be perfect. So each time I did not act as I thought Christians should behave, I questioned my salvation. After all, if Jesus was in my heart, why would I respond to someone in anger, why would I feel jealousy? No one explained to me that Christian living is a growth process. As we commit to God, it is God alone who creates in us this newness of life and heart, and each morning when we commit our day to God we can know that God has already committed to enable us to live according to His nature and not our own.
As we walk with God daily we begin to grow into His image. The Scripture informs us of the way God wants us to live, and grace transforms us, so that we move from being childish to child-like, we grow from being selfish to selfless, and God replaces that which was dead in us with that which is alive in Christ.
When we become intentional in our discipleship, God becomes supreme in our lives, and just we have been reconciled back to God, we need to share with others that they, too, can be reconciled to God. We are called to become Ambassadors for Christ in the world. We are not perfect, but we are perfectly redeemed. We are not perfect in mind, soul or body, but we are perfected in love. We are not perfect, but God equips us with all we need for doing His perfect will (Heb 13:21).
As Ambassadors we do not deliver our own message, but instead we relay the message of the one we represent. Truly the love of Christ compels us to carry not just God’s word as ambassadors of the faith, but we, through organizations such as the United Methodist Women, continue to perform acts of mercy to those at home and abroad.
Willingness to serve begins with the realization that each Christian has been uniquely gifted for a special role in His church which no other person can satisfactorily fill. If we do not serve in our God-given role we will leave a deficiency in our church and in our community. It is when we allow God to work through us and use us according to His good will that service becomes not a burden or a responsibility but a joy.
Paul says that God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Jesus’ work on the Cross is not just about saving us from eternal damnation, it is about what we do with our salvation. Do we take off our salvation like a coat that is too large for us and put it in our closet, and only take it out on Sundays, or do we grow into our salvation, learning to be not just Sunday Christians, but everyday Christians?
Salvation is not only a gift, it is a responsibility. We need to live into our salvation each and every day, with joy, with hope, with anticipation, remembering, that since our savior came, our lives should not be the same, old things have passed away, all things are new. May we embrace and celebrate this newness of life today and every day, and may we, through the power of the Holy Spirit, become ambassadors for Christ. In the name of the Father, the son and the Holy Spirit.
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