“Ambassadors For Christ” (II Corinthians 5:20 sermon)

According to a recent article in Politico magazine, the American ambassador to Germany is not the most popular man in that country today. In fact, he is very unpopular. But part of the problem is the fact that he is representing his president, Donald Trump, and many of the president’s policies are just not popular in Germany. But the article pointed out that in German, the word for ambassador is Botschafter, which, translated literally into English, means “messenger.” As such, our ambassador is not to be judged on how “popular” he may be among the Germans to whom he is sent, but on how faithfully he represents the message of the President who sent him. That is what an ambassador does. He is to represents his leader and conveys his messages to the citizens of the country in which he temporarily serves.

So II Corinthians 5:20 says a lot of things to us as Christians when it calls us “AMBASSADORS for Christ.” It’s saying that we are Christ’s representatives to this world. Like an ambassador, we live in this place temporarily, but we are representing heaven, and we are here to share heaven’s message with the world — and we will be judged ultimately NOT on how popular or successful we are here in this world, but by how faithfully we represent our King while we are here.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

 

I. THE APPOINTMENT OF THE AMBASSADOR

The first question might be: ARE you an ambassador for Christ? How do you become an ambassador for Christ? Verse 18 says that: “God … reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”  This takes us right back to “the gospel” which we talked about last week, which is really the heart of every message we share:

God made us to know Him. Jesus said in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may KNOW THEE, the only true God.” God made us to know Him, and love Him, and have fellowship with Him forever. But starting with Adam & Eve in the Garden, all mankind rebelled against God, and we have been at war with God ever since. 

You may say, “Well I haven’t been at war with God.” Yes you have. You may not want to admit it, but you have disobeyed God, haven’t you? 

—God’s told you to do one thing, and you have done another. 

— God’s told you to live one way, but you have lived another. 

— God’s told you to serve Him, and you have served yourself instead. 

—God’s told you to treat people one way, but have treated them as you saw fit instead. 

Yes, you have been at war with God, and you have been God’s enemy. We all have. Romans 5:10 says that because of our sin, we were all the “enemies” of God. 

But amazingly, even though we were His enemies, God still loved us. “While we were yet sinners (His enemies) Christ died for us.” And He paid for the sins of His enemies on the cross, so that if we would repent and come back to God, we could be reconciled to Him again. That’s what that means when it says, “God reconciled us to Himself through Christ.” Through Jesus’ death on the cross, God paid the price for us to be reconciled with Him. So now, if we will repent and return to God, we can be reconciled with Him.  

When we hear that message, and believe it, and turn around and come back to God, then we are forgiven; God’s Spirit comes into our heart; we are given a home in heaven; and most importantly, we are “reconciled” with the God who made us for Himself, and we will spend eternity with Him like He intended us to in the beginning.  

So when that happens to you — when you are reconciled to God through faith in Jesus Christ — then you, who were formerly an enemy of God, now become His ambassador to the world.

It wasn’t that long ago when we were in the midst of the 2016 Presidential campaign. There was a HUGE field of Republican candidates on the debate stage, all fighting for the top spot, and the Republican nomination. If you remember, many of those debates were real knock-down, drag-out sessions. And one of the candidates involved was Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah. At one point in the campaign, he was totally opposed to Donald Trump, and even called for him to drop out of the race. But after the campaign, Huntsman and Trump reconciled. And they reconciled so well, that Trump actually made Huntsman his ambassador to Russia!  He who was once an enemy, is now reconciled, and is even his ambassador!

And that is exactly what has happened to those of us who are Christians. We who were once enemies of God because of our rebellion against Him,  have been reconciled through Jesus Christ, and reconciled so well to Him, that He says, now you are my ambassadors in this world. We were His enemies, but now in Christ we are His ambassadors!  

If you are a Christian, you are an ambassador for Christ. This world is not your home; heaven is your home. And your success in this life will not be judged by how popular you are in this world, but by how faithful you are to represent the God who reconciled you to Himself, and made you His ambassador.  

 

II. THE MISSION OF THE AMBASSADOR

“and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”

If you are a Christian, you are an ambassador for Christ. So as an ambassador, what are you supposed to be doing? In any job, you have to know what your job description IS, in order to do it. What is it that you are supposed to be doing as Christ’s ambassador? Paul shows us here: He says “(God) gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” We have been reconciled to God ourselves, and now our job as God’s ambassadors is to bring other people back to Him as well. 

That’s what earthly ambassadors do. Their mission is to make and keep good relationships between countries, to bring them together. And that is what we are to do with people and God: help make good relationships between them, and bring them together. God made people for Himself, and even though they have gone off away from Him, He still loves them and wants them back. And He wants to use US to help bring them back. They may be afraid, or not know how to come back to God — so it is our job as His ambassadors, to help bring them back to Him. 

When we were serving in Tulsa Oklahoma, our daughter Libby was in a little kindergarten Sunday school class, and the lesson that day was on the leaders of the church, and the teacher asked the kids: “Do you know our pastor, Bro. Shawn?” Several of them said they did, but one little boy said, “No, I’m afraid of him.” The teacher said Libby took the little boy by the hand and said, “He’s just my dad, I’ll take you to him” — and she led him by the hand and brought him to meet me where I was sitting in the worship center. I remember sitting there that day, getting ready for the service, when Libby brought that boy to meet me. I didn’t know, until the teacher had told me later, just what Libby had done.

But what she did that day is a pretty good picture of what we are supposed to be doing as ambassadors for Christ: our mission is to take people by the hand bring them to the God we know as our Heavenly Father. They may be afraid of Him; they have made enemies of Him by their sin; they are living in rebellion against Him; and our job is to take them by the hand and help bring them back to Him. That is “the ministry of reconciliation,” which is the job that God has given to each one of us.

It will do us well to remember what our mission IS. God has not called us just to “win arguments;” He has called us to win PEOPLE. There is a big difference. You can blast somebody with the facts and “win a debate,” but in the process, totally alienate and lose the person. God has not given us a ministry of winning debates, but a ministry of reconciliation, of winning PEOPLE!

If you are a Christian, you need to see yourself, wherever you are, as God’s ambassador to that place. You need to realize that He has put you there to take people by the hand like Libby did, and bring those people to God and help reconcile them to Him: 

— you are not at your school by accident; God has placed you there as an ambassador for Christ

— you are not at that job by accident; God has appointed you as His ambassador to that place to lead people to Him!

— You don’t “just happen” to live in the neighborhood that you do; God has purposefully placed you in that neighborhood to be an ambassador for Christ there.

Just as surely as Jon Huntsman was appointed by Donald Trump to be his ambassador to Russia, God has appointed YOU to be His ambassador to your school, your job, your neighborhood, to take people by the hand and lead them to Him. That is YOUR mission as God’s ambassador.

 

III. THE MESSAGE OF THE AMBASSADOR

We talked about this last week, so we won’t spend a lot of time here, but don’t forget what your MESSAGE is, as God’s ambassador. You have an unchanging message, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Last week we saw that message spelled out for us in I Corinthians 15, “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and He was buried, and that He was raised on the 3rd day according to the scriptures.”

Paul describes it here in :19 as “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself …”. In :21 he describes it as: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. That’s all the same gospel: We were sinners, but Jesus’ death on the cross saves us from our sins when we repent and trust Him as our Savior. That’s the Gospel. That is our message. And as we saw last week, we are not to change that message. 

When the President gives the ambassador a message to the country he serves, that ambassador is not free to say, “Well, I don’t think these people  are going to receive that message very well; I am going to change it to something they will find more to their liking.” That might make that ambassador very popular in that country, but it would make him treasonous to his President!  The ambassador is not free to create the message. The ambassador is just to be faithful to pass along the message his leader gave him.

And that is just what we as Christ’s ambassadors are to do. We are not free to be creative with God’s message. We are not free to take out the hard parts, or change it to make it more pleasing to the people of our age. It might make us more popular with the people here — which is EXACTLY what we are seeing in many mega-churches which have compromised the gospel and are accumulating huge crowds in the process. They have made themselves popular with the world — but they have committed treason towards heaven, and the day of judgment will show it.  

As we have seen, we are to show the Father’s LOVE to people; we are to take them by the hand as His ambassadors and help love them and lead them to Him — BUT WE MUST NOT COMPROMISE HIS MESSAGE ONE IOTA AS WE DO SO.  The message of the gospel does not change, and as we have said before, you & I will not be judged by how “popular” with are with the world, or by the response of those we shared with, but by whether we have been faithful to pass along the message that our King gave us to deliver.

 

IV. THE CONDUCT OF THE AMBASSADOR

The conduct of an ambassador is extremely important, of course, because whatever they do reflects upon the one who sent them as an ambassador. So it is understood that anyone who is an ambassador must conduct themselves appropriately; because you are representing your country.

For example, in 2002 the Swiss ambassador to Germany was recalled, after numerous reports of partying and scandalous behavior. His conduct was not befitting one who was an ambassador of his country. You have to be careful how you act, when you are an ambassador.

And the Bible says each one of us who is a Christian, is an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ here on earth. That means we have to guard our conduct, because we are not merely representing ourselves, but our Lord, in whatever we do. 

That’s why Paul says in Philippians 1:27, “Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” He’s saying that as a Christian, you need to make sure that your conduct reflects well on the gospel, because you are an ambassador of Christ!

Look at what he said here in 6:3, that we should make sure that we are “giving no cause for offense in anything, so that the ministry will not be discredited.” He’s saying don’t let anything you do — ANYTHING — bring discredit to the gospel. And you have to realize that everything you do, whatever it is, DOES reflect on your Lord, either for good or for bad. And you need to willing to stop anything you are doing that might hinder people from coming to the Kingdom of God.

Here in America we are big on claiming “our rights.” Somebody tells us not to do something; we’ll tell them, “Hey, this is America; I can do what I want.” We don’t want anyone telling us what to eat, what to drive, or whatever. But as Christians, it is a different story. As Christians, we don’t claim “our rights.” I Corinthians 6:19 says “you are not your own; you have been bought with a price.” If you are a Christian, you are not free to do “anything you want to do.” You have been bought by the blood of Jesus Christ, and you are now His ambassador here on earth. And you are not free to do whatever you want, live however you want, sell whatever you want, sleep with whoever you want, or anything else. You are God’s ambassador here on earth, and people are looking at YOU. And if you are supposed to be a Christian, your lifestyle is either pointing people TO God, or turning them away from Him. If you are living in a way that is contrary to God’s word, then not only are people going to call YOU a hypocrite, but they will talk badly about God and His church because of you. And that is exactly what Paul told the Romans in 2:24 “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Because your conduct is not becoming of an ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Back in the 1800’s Great Britain was the world “superpower.” “Britannia ruled the waves” and “the sun never sets on the British empire.” They were proud of their military might. During that time, a new offense was added to their military courts martial: “conduct unbecoming of an officer and a gentleman.”  It might involve dishonesty, indecency, scandalous behavior — any conduct that was unworthy of an officer in Her Majesty’s service. 

It is an interesting fact that our modern-day football penalty, “unsportsmanlike conduct” comes from this charge: “conduct unbecoming.”

But we should all ask ourselves: Is there anything in your life today, which might be flagged as “conduct unbecoming” — not just of a football player, or an officer in Her Majesty’s Service — but “conduct unbecoming” of an ambassador of the King of Kings, and the Lord of Lords? We need to take that seriously.  

I was so glad to hear Jim tell me before our Romania mission team left that they made sure that all the shorts and shirts they took, all the clothing they were going to wear, was screened to make sure it would be acceptable in Romanian culture. That’s how we should be when we go on mission: we have the “right” as Americans to wear anything we want to. But as ambassadors of Christ, we voluntarily restrict our freedom because we are representing Him when we go on mission. We never want anything to take away from the gospel.

But what we need to understand is that we should be doing the very same thing right here! We are on mission right HERE! We are ambassadors for Christ right here where we are too!

— So when we choose our clothing every morning, we should do it knowing that we are representing Christ that daay! We shouldn’t dress, ladies, to see how many men’s eyes we can attract, but on how you should represent Christ in the world that day.

— when we make our business deals, we should make every one knowing that we are representing Christ to those people.

— when we respond to people we come across in Wal-Mart or in traffic, we should do it remembering that we are ambassadors of Christ.

We are always on mission; we are always ambassadors for Christ; we should voluntarily restrict our freedoms so that nothing in our clothing, our business, or anything in our conduct is ever “unbecoming” to the gospel of Jesus Christ. “For we are ambassadors for Christ.”

 

CONCLUSION:

I was so excited that Todd & Sunshine Meister and their family became official members of our church family last week! Let me tell you some of “the rest of the story” of how they came to Pleasant Ridge. They were looking for a church home, and Todd’s wondering, how are we going to find a good church? He came up with a good idea — he asked himself, “Who at work has a good testimony there? I’ll bet he probably goes to a good church.” And he looked around at work and said, “Dewie Phipps. He has a good testimony. I’ll see where he goes.” And he did, and that’s how they ended up visiting here for the first time.

Do you think it matters how you act at work? It does, doesn’t it? You think it matters who you treat other people at school, or in your neighborhood, or even in what appear to be the most insignificant meetings in stores or streets? It does matter. It matters greatly. It could mean the difference of heaven or hell for somebody.  We’ve got to realize, as Paul says here: “We are ambassadors for Christ” — not just in church on Sunday; that’s the least of it. It’s 24 hours a day; it is 7 days a week. It’s everywhere we go and everything we do. If that’s so — and it is — then you need to ask the Lord today: is there anything in my life right now, that might be turning people away from You; is there anything I am doing that might be “conduct unbecoming” for one who is an ambassador for Jesus Christ?  

INVITATION:

— Would you ask the Lord to show you, right now, is there any “conduct unbecoming” in your life: your relationships, your actions, words, attitudes, work, business deals — anything — that is reflecting badly on Christ; and when He shows you what it is, ask Him to help you change it.

— Or maybe you’ve never become an ambassador for Christ, because you’ve never really given your life to Him. If not, you need to do it today. You’ve turned away from God in your sin, but God has paid the way for you to come back to Him, through Jesus’ death on the cross. Ask Him to forgive you, and save you, and help you to turn and follow Him, right now. 

Paul said to the Corinthians, “I APPEAL to you, be reconciled to God.” Let me use his same words to YOU today: “I APPEAL to you; be reconciled to God today. “I beg you, on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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