Monday, November 5, 2018

The World is Watching

In 2 Corinthians 6, Paul lists no less than 27 items that either galvanize or destroy the gospel we are living out in front of the world.   These 27 can be reduced to three groups of nine, Conditions, Character, and Christ-like.  Inconsistency in any of these can create stumbling blocks that a watching world can use as excuses to not believe our message.  As we saw last week, even though we are ambassadors for our Heavenly King, we don’t get diplomatic immunity in this foreign land.  In fact, we are under greater scrutiny than the locals.

2 Corinthians 6:6
We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. 

Things to think about:
·      Let’s look at this more in bite-sized pieces, starting with 2 Cor.6:4-5, “Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger;”
o   The universal experience is one of struggle and hardships.  While we may not experience every one of these Paul mentions, nobody gets a pass.  What people take note of is how you react when you’re going through them.
o   Who have you seen go through especially tough times and marveled at how well they managed keeping their poise and faith?

·       2 Cor. 6:6-7, “in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left;”
o   Do people see in your life what you proclaim with your lips?
o   We’ve said many times that hypocrisy is the biggest turn off to the gospel.
o   Who have you seen be a great ambassador for Christ by virtue of their godly character?
o   Notice how twice in this passage we’re reminded that we can do these things “in the Holy Spirit” and “in the power of God”?  Why do you think that is?
§  To what extent is trying to uphold these values in our own strength a losing battle?

·      2 Cor. 6:8-10, “through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
·      While Paul is describing his lot as an apostle of Jesus, he is in many ways describing Jesus Himself.
·      Jesus on this earth was the culmination of Conditions plus Character.  He did not have it easy but He was the embodiment of God’s character.  See Isaiah 53
o   He left glory and embraced our dishonor
o   He was the recipient of bad reports and we sing His praises
o   He was denied as being the genuine Son of God
o   He was a virtual “nobody” and yet the very Creator of everything
o   He was beaten, but not killed (only temporarily)
o   A man of sorrows yet obedient for the joy set before Him
o   Poor but the King of Kings
o   No place to rest his head but seated at the right hand of God
·      What do you take away from today’s study that particularly resonates with you?
·      How can the intersection of Conditions and Character produce more Christ-likeness in your life?
·      What do you hope people see in your life that makes God’s message compelling?

Monday, October 29, 2018

Mr. Ambassador

I have a new title for you to add to your LinkedIn profile, “Ambassador”.  Whether you know it or not, the Bible says each of us has been called by God to be His representatives in a foreign land and represent Him as His ambassador. 

2 Corinthians 5:20
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us

Things to think about:
·      We will look at our Mission and our Message as Ambassadors
Our Mission
·      The dictionary defines an ambassador as “ an accredited diplomat sent by his country to a foreign country as the resident representation of his own government.”
·      We are indeed citizens of another sovereignty
o   Philippians 3: 20 – we however are citizens of Heaven and we eagerly wait for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come from Heaven.
o   Do you think of yourself as a citizen of Heaven?
o   How does that context alter your self-perception?
·      We are sent by God to do a job
o   “… as though God were making His appeal through us.”
o   that’s a wild thought, that God has entrusted you and me as His representatives.  We are His primary way to reach others.
§  How does that make you feel knowing this?  Does it stir up feelings of pressure, honor, maybe a little bit of both?

Our Message
·      2 Corinthians 5:19 – “… that God was reconciling the world to Himself through Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”
·      What does “reconciliation” mean to you?
o   Going back to our diplomatic theme, it means the restoration of friendly relations where there had previously been separation.
o   Why is God so into reconciliation?
§  Hint: John 3:16
§  Romans 6:26 – For the wages of sin is death
§  2 Peter 3:9 – not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
§  God is in the reconciliation business!  He has done all of the hard work to restore our relationship with Him and to live at peace.
·      Why is reconciliation among believers a big deal?
o   John 17:20-23, ““My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—  I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
o   We cannot have bitterness, strife, quarrelling among ourselves and tell others how great Christianity is and expect them to believe our message
§  Have you ever seen this be an issue?
§  Is there something you need to change TODAY to remove that barrier for someone?
·      The Good News in one verse:
o   2 Corinthians 5:21 – God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
·      Let’s live as the citizens we are, represent the One who sent us well, and clearly live and speak his message of reconciliation to the country we have been sent to.
o   That’s living with a purpose and that’s a life worth living!