Nov 8, 2012

“Ambassador For Whom?”

Let me test your ability to discern. Which of the following is an actual joke?

A priest, a minister, and a rabbi walk into a bar. The bartender looks up and says; “Is this a joke?”  Or: A woman walks into a church and is told by the ‘man of God’ that if she can’t come every Sunday and every holy day, she is going to hell. The woman says; “Is this a joke?”

If you guessed the first one, you guessed correctly. In fact it is probably the simplest joke that when told by me can still get a smirk from my wife Cathy. She said that it is part of my job description to make her laugh and to keep her warm (we live in a place in which the winters get cold).

Sad to say, the second one is a true story that happened recently to someone who, when telling the story to me, said; “I haven’t been back to that church or any church since then, so I guess I am going to hell.”

Now I work hard to build bridges between ministries and between denominations; making “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:3); believing that the church is ALL a part of the Body of Christ and under His Lordship. So, I watch what I say looking for ways to build up, not tear down.

But inside I got mad at how poorly that ‘man of God’ represented God; he is supposed to be a ambassador for God! Now, I don’t expect the ‘man of God’ to be perfect; without the Lord’s grace and mercy hell should be my destination. The truth be told, all of us who are ministers have at one time or another misrepresented God; myself included and I owe the world an apology.

But if he is going to be an ambassador for God, shouldn’t he represent the Lord? I want to personally ask the ‘man of God’ in this story; “And who are you an ambassador for?” Certainly it isn’t for the One whom died for this woman!

In the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, he writes that when we come to Jesus, we are new creations; “…old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17).  

Paul goes on to make clear what that new life means. It goes on to say that God; “…has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (v18) and has “committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (v19). In other words He wants to use us to tell others the gospel story; a story of hope that we can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ!

Paul makes it really clear whom it is we represent; it is God. Paul wrote: “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (v20). The Greek word Paul uses for “ambassadors” means to be a senior, that is, (by implication) act as a representative (figuratively preacher): - to be an ambassador.

The Greek word that Paul uses for “pleading “means to call near, that is, invite, invoke (by imploration, hortation or consolation): - beseech, call for, (be of good) comfort, desire, (give) exhort (-ation), intreat, pray.

Did you catch that? We are supposed to be talking and acting as His ambassadors, “as though God were pleading through us…” In other words, what God would say and is saying. We are supposed to be inviting people passionately to come through Jesus; not informing them they are going to hell if they don’t come to church “every Sunday and every holy day”.

Hell is the destination for those who reject what Jesus accomplished on the cross with His death, burial, and resurrection, and choose instead to pay for their own sins; not necessarily for those who don’t come to church each week. Keith Green once said; “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to McDonalds makes you a hamburger”

The Bible tells us that we come to God through GRACE! NOT by keeping man made rules like “you have to go to church or else or will go to hell”.

 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

There is nothing you can do to earn salvation. God does not require you to do something otherwise Jesus wouldn't have had to die! Jesus Christ has done it all. Salvation is finished; all you have to do is take it; receive it by faith. God simple wants us to say “yes” to His grace that is available and to receive His gift of salvation.

When Jesus was asked;

… “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:28-29)

To all who have been pushed away by ‘men of God’; intentionally or unintentionally, I want to say that I am sorry. I’m sorry that we haven’t represented Him. Please don’t stop seeking him just because you’ve met some of us.

"Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved."



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