ARE WE LIVING AS AMBASSADORS OF CHRIST?
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
23 JUNE 1991
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
2 Corinthians 5:1-21
Preparation Verse (2 Corinthians 5:20):
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
I could probably safely say that all of us gathered here today know what an ambassador is.
And when we think of an ambassador, we usually envision a stately person representing their country in some foreign land.
Probably, it is also safe to say that most of us would be quite flattered if we were offered such an ambassadorship.
It is also an accurate statement to say that most of us have been offered such a position; but that most of us, who have been offered such a position, unfortunately have turned it down.
Or even worse, we have accepted that position and then misrepresented the One who sent us out.
At first glance we see an ambassador as representing his or her nation; but what we really see is how that person represents himself or herself.
For we assume that because that person was chosen as a representative, they are a living, verbal, and visible image of the one who sent them out.
This is not necessarily true, but it nevertheless is the impression that the world has.
Now, with this in mind, let's consider ourselves, and who we really are.
Are we citizens of the United States, or are we something more?
Are we Christians?
If we are, we also have dual citizenship: one here and one in the Kingdom of Heaven.
And with this dual citizenship, we must consider in which "nation" is our primary allegiance.
For we can never truly have complete allegiance in both, when they are on differing sides of an issue.
At these times, we must choose one over the other.
This was the dilemma that the Corinthian Church found itself in. It was trying to live in both “countries” (the world and the Kingdom of Heaven), and have full allegiance to both; and it wasn't working.
Now, this kind of a situation could never happen in this church, could it?...
But just in case it could happen, and considering the fact that we have been appointed as ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven, let's listen to the words of chapter 5 of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians:
1. For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2. For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven;
3. inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked.
4. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
5. Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
Paul is obviously speaking to true believers, for he addresses them with an accepted understanding that they could not possess unless they already had the Holy Spirit to give them this understanding.
Yet at the same time, Paul would not have to say what he is saying, if they lived what they believed and knew to be the truth.
And in almost 2,000 years, we are still very much like them.
We have a tendency to look at our worldly life as the beginning and end of
We let our financial and health problems destroy us both physically and spiritually, and unfortunately most of these problems are of our own making.
We lose sight of the fact that our place in the Kingdom of Heaven supersedes all earthly problems and existence.
If what we have here is destroyed, we will have what is stored up for us in Heaven.
And what we have here, even if it is not destroyed during our earthly lifetime, will be lost to us at our death, when our body is destroyed.
The only things that are forever are those that are based in Heaven.
If we lose sight of this, and we lose what we have here on earth, we will be found naked. There will be nothing to cover us.
All things that are mortal will pass away, either through death or destruction; but if we are true citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, then all things mortal are swallowed up in the eternal life of Heaven.
It is in this hope that we are clothed, and thus will not be found naked when things go wrong.
For it is only in this assurance of eternal life, that we can be true ambassadors of the Lord Jesus.
And God has given us His Spirit as a pledge, or as a witness of the fact, that all that He has promised us is true and will one day come to pass.
Just suppose that tomorrow morning you awoke and found yourself a thousand miles from home.
What would you do?
Would you give up and just stay there, or would you try to get home?
And if you decided to go home, but gave up after 100 miles, or even after 900 miles, would you be any better off than if you had stayed where you found yourself?
If you had every intention of going all the way home, but failed to put fuel in your car, or failed to refuel along the way, you would not get home, would you?
What would your attitude be along the way?
Would it be such that others would want to relocate to your home town?
Would the people you met in that distant place, and along the way, see the
Spirit of Jesus Christ in you and want to have Him, too?
For if that is the case, then the truth is in us, and we will be of good courage in whatever situation we find ourselves.
It's just as Paul reminds us:
6. Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord –
7. for we walk by faith, and not by sight–
8. we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
Is this really the way we are?
Do we do everything in our power to have God's heavenly will be done here on earth as it is in heaven?
Or do we have a tendency to be overly concerned with what we have here and now, and to forget about God's promises and His Kingdom?
It all comes down to our attitude.
Are we controlled by the situations in which we find ourselves, or do we step out firmly in our faith, doing what we all know the Lord wants us to do?
For if we are living by faith, then we are living as Paul tells us in verse 9:
9. Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.
And whether or not we live by faith, or are controlled by the world, we will
all be called to account for ourselves, as we are told in verse 10:
10. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
This is something that people who live by faith just naturally accept as a
matter of course, but that others just don't want to believe.
The world doesn't want to accept the fact that if they continue to live in the corrupted and worldly ways that are all around us, without the Lord Jesus Christ, they are going to hell.
They make up lies and false religions, and try to convince themselves that the lie is the truth; but they are still accountable and will still go to hell.
But what about we who believe and step out with faith in that belief; don't
we also have some responsibility?
Yes, we do!
It’s as Paul tells us in verse 11:
11. Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest to God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.
Perhaps in this statement is the root of our problem as a church.
We don’t fear, or reverence the Lord enough, or accept the consequences of hell enough, to convince others of the truth through our lives.
We know that there was no suffering or death in Eden before the Fall, and that there is no suffering or death in heaven, yet the vast majority people who call themselves Christians, cause, or participate in, or contribute to the suffering and death or millions of humans and billions of animals here on earth every year.
Why does this continue to happen?
Because we don’t receive the full truth in our hearts, and truly desire to live by that faith, we cannot manifest that truth to others, as an ambassador should.
Our very lives and lifestyles should convict others to repent of their ungodly worldly ways and to seek the Lord with all their heart, soul, and might.
And in this ambassadorship, we must be careful of how we project ourselves, so that our faith is not just a boastful attitude.
Note what Paul says:
12. We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, that you may have an answer for those who take pride in appearance, and not in heart.
13. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you.
14. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died;
15. and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.
These verses express the key attitude about ambassadorship.
We cannot really be a good ambassador unless we are proud and excited about who and what we represent.
We cannot encourage others to come to Christ, if we look like we just rolled out of bed and sound like we wish we were still there:
"... Oooh ... I just had to pull myself out of bed ... (yawn...stretch) ... and come here ... (groan ... stretch) ... and tell you about the love of Jesus … (yawn) ... and how He saved me from hell ... (groan ... stretch).
Nor can we have the pride of ownership of Christ:
Wow! My life hasn't been the same since Jesus came into my life. He gave me all the power of the Holy Spirit; and when I pray for something, it comes true; and when I lay my hands on someone, they are healed, and even get out of wheel chairs; and when I was out of town last week, I preached in this little heathen church, and when they heard me preach, they all came to Christ and were saved!
Both of these attitudes are wrong, and actually turn people away.
They are not the ways of an ambassador.
If the Holy Spirit is truly working through you and me, we don't have to do much more than live that life, doing the will of the Lord. Then others will see and hear the truth of the Gospel message, and if they are convicted in their own hearts by the Holy Spirit, they will be saved by His power, and not by ours.
Then Paul goes on to tell us something else about how true ambassadors must see others:
16. Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.
17. Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
18. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation,
19. namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
We are to see through the sins of each other to the person that God created us to be.
Thus we can truly love the person, while hating their sins, and hopefully they will do the same with us.
Most of all, we must realize that God is the one who reconciles us through
Jesus Christ. It is not by or through us!
We, as ambassadors, have been given the word of God, that is to lead others to His saving grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Sure, God uses each of us who are willing to serve Him; but in that service, we are to glorify Christ, just as the last two verses tell us:
20. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
21. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
We can never be the righteousness of God through our own efforts, or through the efforts of others, for God is sinless, and all of us have sinned; thus we can never achieve His righteousness in this manner.
The only way we can achieve the righteousness of God is through our faith and belief in Jesus Christ; because He died for our sins and paid the price in full, thus blinding the eyes of the Father to our transgressions.
Thus we are accepted as being righteous, and given the duties of ambassadors, that is, if we are willing to walk away from the ways of the world.
And it is the job of ambassadors to spread this good news, and to live a life that so reflects Jesus Christ, that others will seek Him because they want what we have.
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