Friday, April 20, 2012

Tent Cities IV

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.  Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  -  2 Corinthians 5:16-21

I have been talking about how we are living in a temporary dwelling place waiting for our permanent residence in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Since we are living in a temporary dwelling place waiting for entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven, not because of anything that we have done, but because Jesus paid the price for our entrance into our permanent dwelling we should think differently.  We need to think differently, because we are different.  We were full of guilt from sin, but now we are justified by grace through faith.  We were fatherless, but God has called us by children through adoption.  We were on the path to eternal death, but now we have been given eternal and abundant life.
We need to start looking at people as spiritual beings, not just bodies.  Our lives seem so long, but we’re just a breath of time.  Our bodies will expire, but our spirits will remain in eternity.  Our spirits are either destined for an eternity with God in heaven or eternal separation from God.  There are only two options.  Jesus is the perfect example of this, He made Himself flesh, but is ascended into heaven after His resurrection.

If we are indeed in Christ, we become a new creation.  For example, have you ever heard the term, “cuss like a sailor?”  In the Marines, I spent months on a ship and developed quite a potty mouth.  I also used to drink quite a bit.  The refrigerator in my apartment and a good amount of cabinet space was dedicated to the storage of various bottles of alcohols.  After I dedicated my life to Christ, these things did not have power over me anymore.  The grace God gave me empowered me to overcome these things because I am a new creation.

Of course, things don’t always happen overnight like that.  But you are a new creation.  You were destined for death, but now life is in you.  You were powerless to sin, but now you have power to overcome.  You were defeated, but now you’re victorious.  You are new.

This is the empowering gift of grace from God.  Jesus died for you, that you might be reconciled to God.  When sin covered you, that you could not approach the Most Holy God, you have been now covered by the cleansing blood of Jesus.  You are now able to approach the throne of God in boldness, because Jesus reconciled you to God.

Because you have been reconciled to God, you now have the duty and responsibility to reconcile other people to God.  You are now a minister!  Many people believe that they need some sort of title to serve in the church.  Well, you now have your title, minister of reconciliation.  Jesus has entrusted us with the message of reconciliation, entrusted.  Remember the parable of the talents?  The two wise servants invested what was entrusted to them.  The foolish servant hid what was entrusted to him.  You have been entrusted with the message of reconciliation, what are you going to do with it?

 We are no longer citizens of this world.  We are now citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven; we’re immigrants in the world.  Not only are we immigrants, we are ambassadors.  We represent the Kingdom of Heaven and the King.  An ambassador must live up to a very high standard because the ambassador represents his country.  If the ambassador acts foolishly, the actions of the ambassador become a direct reflection of the country he represents.

One of the biggest turn-offs to the younger generation is hypocrisy.  Whether you like it or not, you are being watched by the world.  Your actions speak for the Kingdom of Heaven.  By accepting Jesus as Savior, you have been given the responsibility of representing His Kingdom as an ambassador.  We must hold ourselves to a higher standard.

 While drinking an alcoholic beverage is not a specific sin, many have fallen by the wayside because of an addiction to alcohol.  I would rather abstain from alcohol than to have someone see me, as an ambassador of Jesus, consume an alcoholic beverage and perhaps stumble.  I would rather be out of the loop by skipping a popular movie that contains gratuitous sinful behavior than to be seen walking out of the theater and be viewed as a hypocrite.  I do not want to condone sinful behavior.

 A wise philosopher said once said, “Actions speak louder than words.”  St. Francis of Assisi wrote, “Preach the Gospel at all times – when necessary use words.”  The world is watching our actions.  If indeed, we are truly changed by the grace of God, our behaviors will change.  People will see that we live up to a higher standard.  They will want what we have.  We will have no need to desire what the world desires.  God is making His appeal through us.

Be reconciled to God.  Jesus paid the ultimate price, He who knew no sin, became sin for us.  Why?  So that we might live our lives the way we want to?  So that we can watch whatever movie we want, regardless of sinful content?  So that we can come to church on Sunday, but live like the devil the rest of the week?  No, I think not!  Jesus, the one who knew no sin, but became sin for us did this so that we might become the righteousness of God!

Please read the very first verse of the next chapter carefully: “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.”

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