II Corinthians 5:11a and14-20
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade men. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 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.21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2009 was the Year of the “WORD” where you were challenged to read the Bible daily. 2010 was the Year of the “YES,” the Year Everyone Served. 2011 has been the Year of Prayer where you all were encouraged to pray 11 minutes each day during this year. As you have committed to know and do God’s Word, and have served people who need Jesus, and have prayed for people who need Jesus, you have now sown seeds which I believe God will bring to harvest as you “Invite others to know God.” Everything up to this point has been preparation for the “Big Ask.” This year, during 2012 you will be encouraged to use the tool of invitation in many different and creative ways to work up to finally inviting someone you know personally to ask Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior! Gulp!
Verse 20 of our text is pretty challenging, “Therefore we are Christ’s ambassadors as though God were making His appeal through us!” God invites the world to come Him in Christ through His people. Christian, that is you. That is me. God wants to appeal to people through your life. That is heavy, isn’t it? Did you get up this morning and put on your Christ’s Ambassador Pin? J When Paul wrote those words he was thinking about how an ambassador would represent a king, and how the king would deliver a message through that ambassador.
Ambassadors didn’t deliver their own messages. They didn’t speak to please their audience. They weren’t running for office. They may have been the first ones to coin the phrase, “Don’t shoot the messenger,” but it wasn’t their place to analyze the message, or manage the message or add to the message or to water down the message. Their only job was to deliver the message. An ambassador simply said what he was commissioned to say.
But an ambassador wasn’t just a mouthpiece. He was also a representative of the person he was speaking for. A message delivered in poor taste, or in haste, or with condescension would cause the hearer to form an opinion not of the ambassador alone, but also of the king they represented. As ambassadors, we must remember that what people think about God will largely be tied to what they think about us as His ambassadors.
Many have the wrong impression of God because of some harsh, judgmental Christian mouthpieces that have been spouting condemnation and spewing hate rather than being those who speak truth in love and give people the grace God gives them to change.
I was in a hospital waiting room with the Ferrari family just recently when a young woman who saw my clergy badge asked what church I was from. She was from South Charleston and mentioned she was looking for a church. She volunteered that she might try a church west of us. I wondered why she would drive from South Charleston to Teays Valley let alone to a church west of us and when I inquired, she said she needed to find a “Gay-friendly” church. I told her we were the friendliest church around. Gay, straight, drunk, addict, broken, messed up, bruised, or confused, whatever your situation, we will love and welcome anyone. Last time I checked the message in God’s Word said, “Whosoever will, may come.” Now it doesn’t say come and stay in sin and think God will bless you or that you’ll be in a right relationship with God, but listen people, the first step in leading someone to Christ is to embrace them where they are on their journey. I told her God’s Word would challenge her beliefs, but that we would completely welcome her to attend. I think she was caught a bit off guard! Ambassadors who want people to think God is exclusive and hateful only need to tell them they aren’t wanted in the church. We must be so careful. Remember, we represent the One who has commissioned us to speak.
Think of being an ambassador as inviting people to a party. Who can you invite to know Jesus this year?
Who Is on Your Guest List?
When Jesus called people into a relationship with Himself, He strategically chose certain people to pursue. It doesn’t mean He only ministered to the twelve He chose as disciples, but it means He was intentional about showing a few people how to go about living life and knowing God.
There is something to be said for targeting people with the Gospel. Yes all of our life should be a witness to those who watch our lives, but we can only go deep with so many. What would happen in 2012 if you would target three or four people in the hopes that you would ask them sometime during the year, “Would you like to receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior?”
Can you think of someone you have love and compassion for? Maybe someone you are related to, work with or live beside? It could just be someone you are burdened for. Maybe God has continually brought someone to your mind over and over again and when you think of them you pray for them. I’m likely not connected with your co-workers. You don’t know my relatives. We each have a responsibility to share the Gospel with those God has placed in our lives. Yep. I said it. The annoying relative that gets under your skin-God placed them in your life. The co-worker that brings drama to the office-God placed them in your life. The kid on your team that can’t seem to score-God placed them in your life. The classmate that needs your help with homework or is always texting you to ask questions about the assignment because they weren’t paying attention-God placed them in your life.
A young girl once consulted with her minister about her job. “I cannot stick it out any longer. I am the only Christian in the factory where I work. I get nothing but taunts and sneers. It is more than I can stand. I am going to resign.” “Will you tell me,” asked the minister, “where lights are placed?” “What has that to do with it?” the young Christian asked him rather bluntly. “Never mind,” the minister replied. “Answer my question: ‘Where are lights placed?’ “I suppose in dark places,” she replied. “Yes, and that is why you have been put in that factory where there is such spiritual darkness and where there is no other Christian to shine for the Lord.” The young Christian realized for the first time the opportunity that was hers. She felt she could not fail God by allowing her light to go out. She went back to the factory with renewed determination to let her light shine in that dark corner. Before long, she was the means of leading nine other girls to the Light.
Be an ambassador for Christ right where you are! Start praying now about who you can put on your guest list for 2012 and start cultivating that relationship! Be on the lookout for people who have suffered loss. They will need someone to offer comfort and support. Tell them about our Grief Share class when it begins again and offer to come with them. Or if they have gone through a divorce, tell them about Divorce Care and offer to come with them. Just walk alongside them. Be on the lookout for people who are lonely. Invite them into your home for a meal or meet them somewhere for an evening out. Better yet, invite them to a fellowship gathering here at the church. Give them the gift of your friendship and trust God to help you work Jesus into the conversation. Watch for those who need a helping hand. Maybe they need help transporting kids, or a night of free babysitting, or something fixed around their home. Yes, it’s nice just to be nice, but being nice will help you build a relationship in order to help you share the Gospel. Meet a need so that you can attempt to meet the greater need by sharing Christ! Remember our party analogy! There is a lot of preparation that goes into throwing a good party. In the same way, there is often a lot of preparation that goes into leading someone to Jesus. Set the table in such a way that Christ can make His appeal through you!
What’s on the Menu? (at this party)
Have you ever been so excited to tell someone about something spectacular that you could hardly stand it? I know when one of our kids achieves something I can’t wait to tell the grandparents or put a note on Facebook to express my delight. I want people to know the great thing they have accomplished. Listen, there has never been anyone accomplish anything greater than what Jesus accomplished through His death, burial and resurrection. God will make His appeal through you as you continue to tell the “Old, old story of Jesus and His love.” It’s still the best story ever written and ever told!
What’s on the menu at this party you will invite people to attend? Serve Jesus. Look at II Cor. 5:14 “One died for all, and therefore all died.15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. AND verses 18 and 19 “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.”
Aren’t people looking for a way out? Isn’t it good news to tell someone that “One” has died for all; that because Christ has died we can be dead to sin and be raised to new life? Why would we not want to share the message that God has reconciled the world to Himself? Isn’t it an amazing announcement to tell the people you love that God wants to be in a relationship with them and give them a perfectly clean slate where their sins are no longer counted against them?
Serve Jesus. But you can also share something else. Talk about what Jesus has done for you. Tell them your story. My story is pretty simple. I gave my life to Jesus when I was five years old. I have pursued knowing Him and He has revealed Himself to me. I never did the kinds of things that the world would call rebellious, but that didn’t make me any less of a sinner. I needed to have my sin nature dealt with, and I needed the Holy Spirit to transform me, and He is still doing just that. My story shows that someone can give their life to Jesus at a young age and continue that pursuit all of the days of their life or at least for 38 years which is as long as I have been a Christian. Knowing and following Jesus has spared me great heartache, sorrow and regret. Why would I not want to offer that opportunity to someone else?
My husband has a different testimony. He came to know Jesus at an early age as well, but chose to walk away from God for about ten years from the time he was sixteen until he was twenty-six. He dabbled in the kinds of things the world would call rebellious including drugs and alcohol and came back to Christ in a major grace-filled encounter that changed his life for the rest of his life. His story is one that shows us we can never go beyond where the grace of God can reach. Don’t other people need the same opportunity?
Share your story with people. Isn’t that what the Samaritan woman did after her encounter with Jesus? Scripture said that Jesus was on His way from Judea to Galilee and that He “had” to go through Samaria. (John 4:4) He didn’t have to go through Samaria, but He had to go because God wanted to make an invitation through Him to a broken, lonely woman. There Jesus encountered the lady Scripture nicknames “The Woman at the Well.” Before He ever mentioned her life, her past, or her failings, He told her He could give her Living Water that was far superior to anything she had experienced to that point. He let her know that His heart was to bless her with abundant life and that her past wouldn’t keep Him from giving it to her. Oh is anyone thankful that God’s desire to bless us is greater than the stain of our past?
John 4:28-30 28 “Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.”
The Samaritan Woman represents everyone who has a past they aren’t proud of. She had essentially gone through five divorces. She was currently living with another man. She was the one the town talked about and not in a good way. Her life was characterized by low self-esteem and bad choices, but after an encounter with Jesus, she shook off her shame, she walked out of her past and this lady who had tried to keep a low profile by coming to the well during the hottest part of the day so she wouldn’t have to see anyone or talk to anyone went and found everyone she could find to tell that Jesus had changed her life! She invited them all to the party! From mistress to evangelist! Only Jesus can do that! What a story!
“Come and See a man who told me all about my past yet still chose to talk to me,” she said! “I didn’t think I was good enough for Him. I can’t believe He stooped down to speak to the likes of me. I was just going to get some water, but instead He offered me everlasting life!”
Why have we shied away from putting Jesus on the menu? Why have we been skimpy with sharing our story? Are we overwhelmed by people’s brokenness? Do we think it will cost us too much to get involved? Remember, it’s not our job to fix anyone. Brokenness is Jesus’ specialty. We just have to invite those who are broken to get to Jesus, the One who can fix them.
II Corinthians 5:17 is a scripture we should all keep in our back pockets. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” If you can’t think of anything specific to share about Jesus or your experience with Him, just tell someone that Christ has taken your past and buried it and that He has made you an entirely new creation! Tell them you have a better life, a life of peace and joy unlike the kind of peace and joy you tried to obtain through the world’s systems before Christ. Just say, “Once I was blind, and now I see.” “Once I had no hope, but now I have everything to hope for!”
Jesus didn’t say in Matthew 28:19 that we should “Go and attend church.” He said, “Go and make disciples.” Period. Baptize them in Jesus’ name and teach them how to live as Christians.
So I am issuing the challenge to each one of you that you will take a personal responsibility to be an Ambassador for Christ and let Him speak through your words and actions. Get some people on your list and sometime during 2012, ask the question to at least one of them, “Would you like to know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?” I know it’s a big challenge. I know some of you are already thinking, “I’m not signing that commitment card!” Let the Holy Spirit work on your heart. If God commanded you to do it, and He has in His Word, He will equip you for the task. Saying that you won’t share your faith is direct disobedience to God’s Word and a lack of faith that God won’t enable you to do that which He asks.
Take a look at this video as the challenge sinks deeper into your heart and mind.
Two high school students shared their faith with over 2000 of their classmates in one year. If they can do that, you can certainly ask God to help you find a way to share your faith directly with one person. Are you open to the challenge? Are you willing to be an Ambassador for Christ? Can God make His appeal through you in 2012?