- Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.
- Think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.
- Love must be sincere.
- Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
- Be devoted to one another in love.
- Honor one another above yourselves.
- Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
- Be joyful in hope.
- Be patient in affliction.
- Be faithful in prayer.
- Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
- Practice hospitality.
- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
- Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
- Live in harmony with one another.
- Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
- Do not be conceited.
- Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
- Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
- If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
- Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
- Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Sunday, April 22, 2012
Today in church I heard from a missionary from Kazakhstan. In his message, he gave the church this admonition about us as Christians being ambassadors. This, of course, is not a new concept. Many of us have learned about our roles in representing Christ from early on in our walk with the Lord. But today it took on a deeper meaning for me.
He spoke from the passage in 2 Corinthians 5 where Paul said, “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.” In saying this, Harold (the missionary) emphasized how we should no longer look at a brother or sister in Christ the same way. We shouldn’t compare ourselves according to the flesh; that is to say that I’m better or worse than another. The fact is is that we are all new creations covered by the blood of Christ. Our goal should be restoration, purity, sanctification, and godly living. Never should we look at a brother or sister to condemn because of sin but rather to restore them to bring them back into a right relationship with the Lord.
This is the ministry of reconciliation. But this ministry doesn’t just apply to those within the church body. This applies to how we represent Christ to the world. In fact, Paul says that is exactly what God did when He reconciled us to Himself through Jesus. This passage in chapter 5 tells us that in reconciling the world to Himself that He no longer counted their trespasses against them. So what God now expects us to do is be ambassadors for Christ so that He can make His appeal to the world through us.
18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 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. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This brings me to my study in Romans. The passage is rich in its instructions on how Christians ought to live in this world as ambassadors. It teaches us about how our thinking should be aligned with our new purpose in representing Christ. In fact, we can think of this as a sacrifice as Paul does:
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
But then the question arises…what are some examples of this idea of being renewed in our mind? What does this look like? Instead of quoting the paragraph, I think it would be helpful to list out the examples that Paul expounded on in Romans 12:3-21.
This is a lengthy list of do’s and don’ts obviously, but can’t they all be summed up in The Greatest Commandment that Jesus referred to in Matthew 22, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”?
The thing that Christians misunderstand is the purpose behind these instructions. Sometimes I think believers get this idea that we do this just so we can get along; sort of like Republicans and Democrats getting along together to write up legislation in Congress. Maybe we shrug our shoulders and resolve ourselves to the idea that since we have to live in this world together that we might as well get along while we’re here.
There is a far greater reason why Christians should live according to the way Paul instructed. As Harold pointed out this morning, as ambassadors we need to remember that this is not our home. Let me repeat this…the world IS NOT our home. Given this little piece of information, doesn’t it reason that we’re left here for a purpose? It’s not for our comfort or to pass the time away. And it’s not to grudgingly plow through each day trying to get along with people that we have very little in common with. It’s because we’re ambassadors and God has left a job for us to do!
If we can wrap our minds around this ambassadorship, then maybe we can understand the reasons behind why Paul wanted us to be renewed in our minds and in our attitudes and behaviors. Think of it this way – when you’re at your place of employment, your boss has certain expectations on how you work with colleagues and customers. He expects you to represent the company and him well to others. Can not God expect the same of us? Is God not much more than an employer, but rather our Lord, our Master and King?
To serve Jesus, our Lord and Savior, there is an even far greater motivation. With an employer, the motivation is to earn profits and to stay in business. Ultimately, when you work according to the rules established by the employer everyone benefits. But with God, the motivation is truly extraordinary. It’s to draw a lost people to the One and Only Savior of the world; without which, no one would have hope. Again, this goes back to the ministry of reconciliation. God is making His appeal through us as ambassadors.
The question is unless we submit to the renewing of our minds by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, how are we to represent Christ at all? If we’re only concerned about our welfare, and getting what is ours and what is fair, by ensuring that people pay for the wrongs they’ve committed against us, or even going out of our way to make sure others understand that we’re right and they’re wrong, how is that going to distinguish us as Christians and ambassadors from the rest of the world? What in the world would attract them to God by what we have to offer (which is Christ)?
Ideally, we would consider the words that Jesus spoke regarding the two greatest commandments. Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Do you love God? I hope you do. Do you love yourself? That you can be sure of. Now try to love your neighbor the same way. Look over the list above again under Romans 12:3-21. Think and meditate about the ways you can be this kind of ambassador to your neighbors. Then pray that God would give you by His Spirit the power to live the life of an ambassador. And then pray that God would draw a people to Himself through you to 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."