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Posts Tagged ‘dying to self’

We Are Ambassadors for Christ

August 16th, 2017

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 5:20-21 ESV

How clearly and brilliantly Paul lays out this case, that his mission, and our mission as Christians, is not for our defense, nor really for our cause. It is rather for Christ, for His cause and His glory. We are His ambassadors, not our own.

The background of this passage was the situation in the church of Corinth that was divided due to petty ego issues of the leaders. Some felt that their positions in the church where given to them so that they may exalt themselves and elevate their own reputations among people. They desperately needed God’s perspective on this matter, that they were to be, and we are to be, ambassadors for Christ, conveying His matchless love for people.

It is not about us. It is all about Him.

There is immeasurable potential for the individual in Christ. Since God has made Christ to be sin, even though He had committed no sin, neither did He know sin in His heart, now every person who believes, who is enlightened by the gospel and converted by the Spirit, becomes the very righteousness of God. As we read in Romans, in the gospel a righteousness is revealed that comes to us by faith and by faith alone. It is “from faith to faith” (Rom. 1:17).

So in denying our rights and taking up the cause of Christ, we have enhanced our status by immeasurable bounds. If we represented ourselves, we would have our own small little world, our own narrow self interests, our own reputation, or our family and friends to promote and protect. It would all inherently be about us and not about anything else – certainly not for the cause of or for the glory of Christ.

But neither would it be for the salvation of the sinner. Our goal would simply be to get people under our control for whatever benefits we think we could derive from them. And we would do that by trying to convince them that we could help them also in some manner. Not to say that we humans cannot help one another, for certainly we can, and some manner of helps can even be life-saving in nature.

But the whole gospel enterprise would then slide off into mere humanism or politics or public policies or psychologies – not eternal salvation, not God’s incredible grace to us through Christ, not the righteousness of Christ bestowed to the guilty sinner on the basis of grace, not conversion of heart and soul by the Holy Spirit, and not a joined-in and shared united mission as God’s ambassadors.

By being identified as “ambassadors” we have not lowered our rank at all, rather it is an incredible elevation for those who live and serve in this spirit. It is a privileged and exalted position to be an ambassador for the King of Kings and Lord of Lord, for the Savior of the whole world! Albert Barnes observed:

An ambassador is a minister of the highest rank, employed by one prince or state at the court of another, to manage the concerns of his own prince or state, and representing the dignity and power of his sovereign.— Webster. He is sent to do what the sovereign would himself do were he present. They are sent to make known the will of the sovereign, and to negotiate matters of commerce, of war, or of peace, and in general everything affecting the interests of the sovereign among the people to whom they are sent. At all times, and in all countries, an ambassador is a sacred character, and his person is regarded as inviolable, he is bound implicitly to obey the instructions of his sovereign, and as far as possible to do only what the sovereign would do were he, himself present.

When we have put aside our self-interests and taken up the message and cause of Christ – and I do not believe we can take up His cause until we have laid down our own – then we have been elevated to the highest position imaginable. And we are armed with the greatest message imaginable – forgiveness, reconciliation, grace, sonship, eternal life, and a new and eternal spiritual existence.

Sometimes, as it is in political alliances in this world, as Christ’s ambassadors we are sent to negotiate and proclaim the peace and salvation offered through Him to guilty sinners, and perhaps these sinners have sinned against us. Imagine a political ambassador sent to negotiate the end of a war or the establishment of peace, and he himself had lost his son in that war. His personal feelings would be of no account or no matter for consideration. He would represent the government that sent him and negotiate the terms that they dictated. That is the way it is for us as well.

So our feelings, our emotions, our fears, our concerns, our personal experiences – none of these are matters of eternal importance. We are privileged to receive and to share the bountiful grace of God in Christ toward all people – and we are responsible to do it as well. But in putting aside our personal feelings, and taking up the position of ambassadors for Christ, we also experience inner spiritual blessings that are immeasurable. We receive the peace of God that transcends all human understanding, the joy of the Lord, the joining into the eternal purposes of God in Christ Jesus, and the elation of seeing the salvation achieved through Christ being received by human beings.

As Christ said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

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Coming After Jesus

February 18th, 2015

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

Matthew 16:24

In these brief words Christ gave us a profound theology of discipleship.

“Theology” by definition means the study of God, and a system of beliefs. The general and broad subject is broken down, as all educational disciplines are, into smaller sections, and all of these sections must maintain an interconnectedness to one another, and especially to the main and foundational truths about God. “System” means that the truths in each area compliment one another and connect to one another.

So any doctrine or theology of discipleship, must be connected in scripture and logic to the core teachings of the Christian faith. It must also, as a secondary concern, ring true to our experience as we walk with God in fellowship with Him and with His people.

To Follow Christ: Christ begins with the essence of the call to believe in Him – to come after Him, or to follow Him. The nature of the Christian faith is not so much to agree to certain biblical truths as it is to follow after a living Person. Every example we find in scripture has this nature about it. Every man or woman of faith, whose history we can trace, had a relationship with God. They may have demonstrated great knowledge of His Word and obedience to His Word, but it was always HIS Word, and not merely a Word. “Your word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11). Paul could write, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14).

This assumes that Christ leads us, that we learn from Him, that He is going somewhere, that He is our Model, and our Lord. We follow Him not as a dead historical figure, but as a living and vibrant Spirit, and as a coming Lord. To come after Him refers not merely to the decisions we make that determine times and places on this earth, but also our motives, our values, our character – who we are, and whose we are, and not just where we are.

To Deny Ourselves: Christ gave two steps to this process – and whether we see them as steps or as two parts of the same response, I think depends more on our personality and perspective than anything else. They are both necessary. The first is to deny our self: the word means literally to affirm that we have no association with someone. It was used to describe Peter’s denial of Christ, and here means “to forget one’s self, to lose sight of one’s self and one’s own interests” (Thayer’s Lexicon).

This connects with what we know of human nature, as Paul wrote, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells” (Romans 8:17). Something of me and something of you must die, must be left out of the process of following Christ. The means of doing this, or the way that this is done, is through the cross of Christ and through the meditation on death by crucifixion. Christ specifically said “take up his cross” and that meant to give oneself over to death. To carry a cross meant to die on that cross, as a condemned criminal would pick up a cross and carry it to the site of his crucifixion.

Something within us cannot make this journey, will fight against following Christ, will rebel against His rule and His reign in our hearts, will seek to destroy what God seeks to build, and there is only one solution – this part of us must die.

Matthew described this as a first step into the journey of faith. The verbs for denying and taking up one’s cross were “once for all” in the description of their action. It was decided upon one time to sever our relationship with the world, with our old sinful nature, with everything within us that fought against the purposes of God. Christ in teaching His disciples came to this issue at exactly the right time. They had been forming their opinions about Christ for many months, and they had come to the time of decision. They must choose Him or reject Him, and to choose Him meant to renounce themselves.

Luke placed the phrase “every day” within his text, and the meaning is clear and consistent with the rest of the biblical teachings. Though there will be a one time experience of faith, of turning from sin and self and turning to Christ in repentance and faith, there must also be a daily dying to self and turning to Christ.

To Embrace Life: The great miracle of the Christian life is that by denying ourselves we find ourselves, by giving our life we find our life in Him. The next verse Christ said, “Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). God’s original design for human life is that He would be the center of everything – everything within us and everything outside of us. And when Christ becomes the center of our heart, our soul, our mind, and our spirit, we find the calling fulfilled in joy. We receive life!

The journey to fullness is made through a surrender to Him, and the result is great inner joy and usefulness to Him. The old hymn said, “If you want joy, real joy, wonderful joy, let Jesus come into your heart.” And that is what followers of Christ have experienced through the centuries – real life, real joy, real peace in Him.

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