Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Ministry of Reconciliation: Your Life Mission Defined

So, the election happened. And boy was it a messy affair! Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up soon. Red kettle season starts tomorrow. Things are ramping up for another successful year in the Salvation Army. And in the United States, a new team is taking over the leadership. Life goes on!

Personally I'm glad that the election is over. It was a very partisan affair, quite vicious and brutal. I think many were surprised by the result.

A vast part of the country felt like they had no voice in the direction the country was going. That caused a great deal of frustration. When one view permeates the culture and the discussion while the other is neglected, people get upset.

Many during the election saw themselves as messengers for one party or the other. They went to work knocking on doors, putting up yard signs and delivering their message on the airwaves. They found a cause greater than them and went to work building it.  The dedication is quite remarkable, don't you think?  Both sides fought very hard.  And I think to myself, shouldn't we have the same zeal about carrying our living gospel into the world? We as Christians are ambassadors, and messengers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must carry it with zeal and tenacity. 

The word of God says, 2nd Corinthians 5:11-21 (NIV) "Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others. What we are is plain to God, and I hope it is also plain to your conscience. 12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart. 13 If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

What is given to us, as regenerate believers is what the word of God calls "the ministry of reconciliation." This is a mission set to consume our lives. We must do it, because the word of God says "It's as if God were making his appeal through us." Amazing the honor that is afforded to us.

Have you ever had a conversation or a chance encounter with what seemed to be a random stranger? And that conversation gave you a chance to witness to your faith in Christ? I have. And there is nothing random about it. God foreordains such conversations and encounters because he is making his appeal through us.

Many of us are praying for our country, praying for America and appealing to heaven that God would have mercy on this nation. And it's right that we should do so. But we also have to take action. We have to do the footwork of carrying the gospel and witnessing to the power of Christ in our lives. We’re free to do so, thankfully.

This experiment called the United States is very unique in history. Some say that the whole world is just like America, but it isn't true. In fact most of the world can only dream of the freedoms we enjoy.

There were people long ago who stood up; stood up for their religious freedom, stood up for the right of representation, and stood up for their rights as beings created in the image of God. These are our ideological great grandfathers, people like John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, George Washington, and Alexander Hamilton. At that time in the 1700s Great Britain was the most powerful nation on Earth. And they fought the British, as the British attempted to raid their storehouses of ammunition and firearms. They fought a long, brutal revolution and won their independence. 

In principle they placed into law the Constitution and Bill of Rights declaring all men equal, with unalienable rights that government has absolutely no say in, because they are ordained by God.  Essentially they declared every person has rights, not given by government, but given by God, and government has nothing to say about that, government can only protect the rights people already have. Do you know how rare that is in history? 99% of revolutions end in chaos and even worse dictators taking the place of the previous regime. So we have to be so grateful that our founding fathers were almost all Christians and decided to put into law the freedom that God almighty provides to us.

Like the first patriots, men and women of future generations decided that the United States of America was so precious, so free, so wonderful, that they had to step forward and fight to protect it. That's why I'm so grateful to all the veterans out there. These people are heroes because they decided to fight and protect our country in times of need. If you see a veteran in the next few weeks, take a moment to thank them for their service and shake their hand. Veterans are like superheroes to me.  My grandfather is a veteran. I've always felt there is something special about that.  When he tells me about his service in the Korean war I'm just amazed.  It takes great courage to serve in the armed forces.  Thanks to those of you who have done so.

I've always considered myself a patriot.  I can't really abide those who endlessly trash the United States.  It's something they do called critical theory, a way of picking apart and attempting to destroy by obsessively and constantly criticizing the opposition.  There are a lot of people in this country, self absorbed individuals who feel entitled to bash America.  Now, I can understand constructive criticism, but when people bash the country just for the sake of giving themselves a sense of moral superiority, that I cannot abide.  This mindset, along with many other keys issues caused me to participate during this election season.  I felt quite compelled to be active. I followed the primaries closely and wrote articles supporting my preferred candidate. I talked to voters and discussed the issues. In fact it began to take up a large part of my life and time. If any of you noticed my Facebook newsfeed you know that. But now that the election is over, I'm looking forward to shifting my energy and focus from politics to my religious faith.

As important as politics is to the world and my life, there is something far, far more important: The gospel of Jesus Christ. There are people out there who are suffering and dying, everyday. There are people in this community, on the streets, in the bars, in the dope houses, homeless, and in jail that are desperately in need of Jesus Christ. Their very souls are at stake, every moment they hang in the balance. Young people are being led astray. Young people are dying of drug overdoses, alcoholism, and suicide, having never heard the gospel. And then they go into outer darkness. It scares me. It scares me so much because that was almost me. And I think about what hell must be like, the emptiness, the sorrow, the darkness, and it's a fate worse than death.

Yet I believe there is great reason for hope. Because people all over the world, all over America, and in our church congregations are getting active for Christ.

There are two types of Christians I believe; active and inactive. Some sit back, not really seeing themselves as on a mission. And some are missional, they are looking for opportunities to love their neighbors, invite people to church, develop relationships, and share the gospel. I've seen many people in the church sharing the message, bringing neighbors and friends to church, and inviting those they see in their lives to come to the cross. We have to do that. We have to be the church. Christ makes his appeal through us, because we are his hands and feet.

I’ve seen people in the churches being his hands and feet. And it’s awesome. I’ve seen young people, bringing friends to church. I seen older people inviting their neighbors and friends. I see people inviting strangers and acquaintances. And maybe a lot of them aren’t coming, but you are telling them and that’s being Christ to them. Great job. I see prayer warriors, praying for people outside their congregations, praying for coworkers, praying for friends, and family. If that's you, great job, your being an ambassador of Christ.

Keep it up. And as you do, don’t be afraid when the enemy attacks you. If you feel and know that your under spiritual attack, join the club. It used to scare me, I’d have nightmares, get sick, see the enemy poking at me through non-believers, but it doesn’t scare me anymore. In fact it puts a smile on my face, because I know the enemy wouldn’t be attacking me unless I was making a real impact for Christ. So when your attacked, dig in deeper, pray harder, and go out and be that ambassador for Christ even more.

There are so many things in this life that vy for our attention. We want to have the perfect body so we can attract a husband or wife. We want to meet the right person to build a life with, and maybe everything else goes out the window once we do! 

We want pleasure. We want the good life. We want to check off that bucket list. But the word of God says differently: “Everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.” -Philippians 3:8

Do you have things in the right order in your head? Is Christ and his gospel first in your mind? That’s what I’ve been wondering to myself the last few weeks. I’ve been so obsessed with politics for one, and secondly, for finding the girl of my dreams, getting married, and having a family. Those aren’t bad things, but they have to stay in context. I have to keep my imperative right, I have to make sure my central focus is Jesus and the gospel. That isn’t easy in this world of media, televisions, ipads, ipods, laptops, xbox, cable flatscreen mounted to the elliptical at the gym, three screens on at once in the living room after work, youtube, twitter, facebook, and the world wide web.

I can get so off course in the space of a day that pretty soon my mind is wandering, and I’m starting to indulge in sinful thoughts that have no place in the mind of a Christian. So if you feel like you fail Him every single day, join the club, I feel that way too. And I can only hope that through time, study, growth, and the work of the Holy Spirit he’ll continue to conform me to the image of his Son.

The work of a Christian isn’t easy. I’ve felt so tired the last few months in the Salvation Army work that I do. I swear I can feel the Lord literally stretching my soul and abilities. It’s a good thing though, during times of trial I always emerge at the other end feeling surprised by the joy of the new spiritual muscles he’s placed upon me.

I want to carry the gospel. I want to be an ambassador for Christ, a minister of reconciliation. That isn’t just the job of the minister though. We are all the priesthood of believers. 

In fact some of the most inspiring moments I’ve heard are from people at work, at their job, or with their friends, when God opens a door for them to share their faith. My mom, a nurse, told me stories of how she witnessed to a stubborn atheist she worked with, and he got very sick and through the struggle he came to believe in God. One guy I knew started sending emails to his coworkers with religious devotionals. Several people started to gain interest, but one guy also told him to stop sending them to him. There will always be those who Satan works through to try to stop us, to scare us, and send us fleeing. But there are also those who Christ works through to save and redeem.

As the scriptures say, verse 13 of 2nd Corinthians chapter five, “If we are out of our mind it is for God.” Many see us Christians as "out of our mind."  Bible thumpers!  Jesus freaks! And if we are, it’s for their sake.

Everything is at stake. I hope you understand that. The people we see everyday are under threat of eternal disconnection from God. The stakes could not be higher. So Christ seeks to make his appeal through us, in a ministry of reconciliation. Your charged with helping reconcile; to help resolve a dispute between God and his children. That can and will be accomplished through Jesus Christ. I see us doing that as a church and it’s wonderful. 

There is one way sure way to experience the presence of Christ firsthand and that’s through carrying his gospel.

As Paul wrote “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death." -Philippians 3:10 NLT

Do you feel the same?  Not every day.  But I do hope you'll fight for that. I hope you'll be filled to the brim with God’s Spirit and I encourage you: Keep doing it. Keep sharing the gospel. Keep developing those relationships. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. Don’t shrink back. Keep inviting them to church. Don’t give up. His Spirit is with you. Jesus is working through you, in and out of season. I believe in you, and so does Jesus. Believe in Him. Amen.

Related Posts:
  1. Origin, Meaning, Morality, & Destiny: An atheist and a Christian on discuss Worldview
  2. Seven Objections to the Bible and Seven Reasonable Responses
  3. Quick Fact Sheet: Four Points to Consider
  4. 10 Answers to Common Questions Raised by Skeptics
  5. Believing in the Miraculous: The Work of Jesus Christ on the Cross
  6. Can you see through the illusion? 
  7. Philosophy, Science, Logic, and History: Presentations on the Truth of Christianity from Multiple Disciplines
  8. No Evidence for God? 
  9. Declaration of Worldview (What we Believe) 
  10. Reasonable Evidence for Christianity