Sunday – March 19, 2017
Read: 2 Corinthians 5:11-21
Focus: vs. 19
11 Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 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, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 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 people’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.
There is an exercise I’ve used a few times in youth ministry over the years. In an attempt to help teens understand why second-hand information is hard to trust, I would speak to the first teen and deliver a basic message. I could be something simple like “red birds love blue skies.” I then instruct that teen to pass that message along the next person, who needs to pass it along to the next. This goes until we reach the last teen in the group and then we find out what message they received at the end of the line. In all my years it has never been even close to the original words uttered.
In verse 20 of our passage Paul refers to us as Christ’s ambassadors. An ambassador, simply put, is one who has the singular job of delivering the message from his leader. He doesn’t have the option of changing the language to soften the message and he certainly doesn’t have the option of delivering a different message altogether. Our president, for example, has ambassadors all over the country whose primary purpose is to deliver messages from him. They perform many other functions but that is the main reason for them being there and the president needs someone he can trust in a position like that. Nobody wants to go to war because the ambassador misquoted the president, either accidentally or purposefully.
So Paul says we are “Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” What is that appeal? “We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” This is the ministry of reconciliation that God has given us and we are ambassadors to the world for Him. It was in verse 11 where Paul says, “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.” God needs someone he can trust for this job and the only way we can be trusted is if we believe and have accepted for ourselves the message being delivered. This is the pearl of great value and the hidden treasure. This is the Way of the Cross that requires total sacrifice. And the message we have to deliver is about the Living Hope that, last week, we referred to as a warm cup of morning coffee for our souls.
Reconciliation with God is the message we carry. With sin in charge, we are at war with God. Our unholiness cannot stand in His presence. The only way to take hold of the Living Hope that God offers is to be reconciled to Him. We must lay down our arms, accepting Jesus and walking His path. We join God’s side and go forth to persuade more hearts to reconcile with Him.
It’s not always going to be easy. As you read through Paul’s second letter to the Corinthian church you will hear talk about all that Paul and the other apostles have suffered for the sake of Christ. These are their credentials, so to speak. They’re task is to tell the truth of Jesus to the world and, often, there are consequences. At one point Paul says they carry about the death of Christ in them all the time as they follow in Christ’s footsteps. Paul knows the end result of his continuing to spread the Gospel but he also knows the end result for the people he doesn’t reach and who never accept the message he has to deliver.
Our task, then, as ambassadors for Christ, is to tell the world around us about the Living Hope we have in Christ Jesus. We have a message to deliver and we don’t have the option of altering the words. This is the ministry that God has given us and sometimes it’s difficult. We live in a world, right now, that doesn’t like the message very much. I’ve got news for you, though: the world has never much liked this message. It has denied it. It has ignored it. It has altered it in order to make it more palatable. It used and abused it. It has even committed atrocities in its name.
It’s the not the ambassador’s job to worry about how the message is received and what the other party does with it – at least not to the point where we soften or change the message to make it more palatable for a world walking in darkness. The world needs to hear about Jesus and what he has done for them but we need to remember their salvation is at stake but it, ultimately, is the responsibility of the one we speak for. And while God desires that all people should hear the message and accept it, the reality is that not everyone will. In fact, the percentage of the truly faithful doesn’t change very much over the years. In America that has been somewhere between 25% and 30% and there are signs that our country is becoming less receptive to the message rather than more so.
Is it our responsibility to reach the next generation for Christ and pass down our faith? Yes, in that we are to deliver the message and be faithful to God’s call as ambassadors for Him. Do we have a responsibility to make the message palatable to the world today? Yes and no. Yes, in that we need to deliver the message in a way that the next generation can hear it and respond to it. No, in that we cannot alter the contents of the message in order to make it more friendly to the world’s current ideals and mores. We can’t fit the gospel to the winds of change within our culture in order to make God more likeable. God’s message transcends all this earthly stuff. If our culture disagrees with God, it’s not God’s fault and nor is it ours. If I disagree with God, I’m wrong – end of story. And the sooner I understand that, the sooner I can be reconciled to Him.
I tell you all this to help you with the task God has given you. You are an ambassador for Him. You carry the message of the Living Hope inside you and that is an awesome responsibility. It’s also plenty to worry about without having to carry the load of the salvation of others on your back as well. Yes, their salvation is what is at stake here but ministering to the heart of a person is God’s job, not yours. We are tasked with delivering the message and God may continue to use us to make that appeal in other ways as we attempt to persuade them of the truth of the message we carry. It may hurt when they reject that message (and I hope you take it seriously enough that it does) but they are responsible to God for the response of their heart, not you. When they accept, we will rejoice with them just like God is doing. A lot of people are not going to accept God’s offer but some are. You and I did and we are not alone.
So what are you doing with the message God has given you? Are you a good ambassador delivering God’s message or are you hiding it because you’re afraid the world won’t accept it? The ministry of reconciliation has been given to you and God desires that as many as possible will be reconciled to Him. You know your part in this. Go. Be the ambassador God has tasked you to be.