Ambassadors of Christ

Ambassadors of Christ

Daily Reading: (2 Corinthians 5:20): “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.”

There are many Christians who are not engaging in the ministry of reconciliation as an ambassador of Christ because no one ever told them what they are and they never studied out properly what this text is telling them. God had selected you and appointed you as Christ’s ambassador with a life changing message.

What is an ambassador exactly? Presbeuō in the Greek means to be an ambassador.An Ambassador is a person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specified activity.So all believers have been chosen to act as a representative of Jesus Christ with a specific activity in mind. What exactly does God have in mind for us or what exactly are we in our lives to be about? For far too long the church universal throughout the ages has at times misrepresented our identity and has promoted the wrong message. We have been more focused on what we are against then promoting the message of what we are for. We are ministers of reconciliation as the very ambassadors of Christ. Our churches should be the most reconciling, peaceable, happy places in town. 

The message or the activity that we are to share it is right there in the text twice. First in the verse before this declaration of what we are (verse 19) and then right after it (same verse 20) just to reinforce it and make sure we understand it.

What is my role as an ambassador? Verse 19 and 20

“This is the message of Christ’s ambassadors: 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.”

And then…

“God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

If you are about anything other than this you are off mission as ambassador.

As Christ’s ambassadors- you are a minister of (katallagē): the restoration of the favor of God to sinners that repent and put their trust in the expiatory death of Christ.

Wherever God has placed you, whatever gifting He has given to you, it shall be used to tell others the good news of the Gospel of Jesus that in Christ there is favor with God forever.

Paul reinforces the supremacy of the ministry of reconciliation and the only thing he changes is he calls it a word or message of reconciliation (verse 19) instead of a ministry (verse 18). He uses the Greek word ‘Logos’. In chapter 1 of John, John identifies Christ as the Logos. What this means in this subtle shift is that the way we proclaim the favor of God (the ministry of reconciliation) is by proclaiming Christ as the reconciler and the only way to bring restoration in relationship with God our Father (2 Corinthians 5:19).

An ambassador is a representative. His message, his authority are given to him by his king. What authority do we go out into the world on this reconciliation message with… the authority of Jesus, all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).

Royal By Blood

Royal By Blood

Daily Reading: (Ephesians 1:5): “He predestined us for adoption to sonshipthrough Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

Some Bibles will include a footnote that says that the Greek word for adoption to sonship is a legal term referring to the full legal standing of an adopted male heir in Roman culture. We have been adopted into God’s family with full legal standing as a child of God. This means that you are royal by (Jesus’)blood (Ephesians 1:5). Christ shed blood brought you into the family of God. What this should do is elevate our minds to see the kind of love God has for us, and our new God-given identity we have in Christ changes the way we behave- because those who are in Christ are now royal.

Because of who you became in Jesus, a member of the royal family, every spiritual blessing is yours (Ephesians 1:3).Your old life could not compare in any way to your new royal life. Your blood bought adoption right means that any and all spiritual blessings are ours.

Thanks to Jesus’ half-brother James he writes that generally speaking many times we don’t have what we ask for because of one of two reasons. James writes in James 4:2 “You do not have because you do not ask God.” You might not ask God because perhaps you don’t even know what is available to you as your spiritual inheritance (Ephesians 1:11).

“You do not receive” (lambanō) lay hold of, to take what is one’s own, claim for one’s self. “Because you ask with (kakos) improperly, wrong motives so that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures” (hēdonē) it is where we get our word hedonism from. The heart of what James is writing is that we should in prayer, claim what Christ has purchased for us to have through faith (James 4:2-3).

“An adopted child received a new identity. Any prior commitments, responsibilities and debts were erased. New rights and responsibilities were taken on. Also, in ancient Rome, the concept of inheritance was part of life, not something that began at death. Being adopted made someone an heir to their father, joint-sharers in all his possessions and fully united to him.”[1]  Adoption is a constant reminder that we are fully desired, fully loved; that we have taken on a new identity through Jesus; that we were created for Heaven, but even now, are heirs to God, “co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17).


[1] Ellen Mady. https://aleteia.org/2017/09/12/how-the-roman-practice-of-adoption-sheds-light-on-what-st-paul-was-talking-about/ September 12, 2017.

Prayers and Provisions of the Spirit

Prayers and Provisions of the Spirit

Daily Reading: (Philippians 1:19):

“For I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” 

You do not need to fear the path ahead if you know who goes with you and the provisions that have been made for you in Christ Jesus. Paul in uncertainty is certain of his deliverance and it comes from the prayers of the believers at Philippi and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus.

In the same chapter Paul wrote in verses 12 and 13 that he is in prison for his faith and he wants us to know that what has happened to him has actually served to advance the gospel. God will use those things that look to imprison us to set the captives of sin free (to advance the Gospel) Philippians 1:12. The only way that you can share the Gospel without fear is if you see the love God has for you. God can use your situation for His salvation to reach others. 

“For I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (Philippians 1:19).

“Deliverance” is the word for salvation (soteria). Because we know that the apostle Paul is in Christ, he is already eternally saved, the definition he must be using is deliverance, preservation, safety, salvation from his enemies. This is fascinating to me because somehow Paul knows he will be delivered here.

How can I be certain of anything in uncertain times? There is a clue in the text in verse 19 as the word for prayer is not a normal Greek word used for prayer. THE church is asking God for something specific- their prayer is focused, united, and Spirit-led. The church is asking God for something specific (deēsis): a need, seeking asking God, wanting something specific (Paul’s deliverance). 

For Paul there is a certainity in the uncertain because the prayers of God’s people where coupled with the provisions of the spirit of Christ. The Spirit led them in how they should pray, what was God’s will for Paul in this situation was his deliverance. Praying in the Spirit is relying on the Spirit in prayer. Because the Spirit moved on the Body of Christ to pray for Paul’s release from prison, he is certain this will be the outcome.

What is praying in the Spirit why is it important and how did it give Paul confidence in uncertainty?

Make Jesus your resting place, and all will be well. You will sleep in the storm. To pray in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, and worship in the Spirit (John 4:24) is to come before the Lord according to His appointed means—that is through the One whom the Spirit magnifies, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 8:26-27), The Holy Spirit also takes our prayers and perfects them before the Almighty (Romans 8:26). The Holy Spirit prays within us when we cannot utter a word (Romans 8:26). When you are praying in submission to the Lord God and His Son, the Holy Spirit within you will testify to Jesus in His Word, in your prayers, and even in those other believers praying with you. These things and so much more are ignited by the dynamite of praying in the Spirit. Praying in the Holy Spirit is God’s glorious means of advancing His will on earth as it is in heaven.

The Temptation of Success

The Temptation of Success

Daily Reading: (Luke 4:42-44): “Now when it was day, He departed and went into a deserted place. And the crowd sought Him and came to Him, and tried to keep Him from leaving them;but He said to them, “I must preach the kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” And He was preaching in the synagogues of Galilee.”

Before Jesus’ Galilean ministry started (Luke 4:14) Satan first tempted Jesus in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13). Now Jesus would be tempted in different ways through rejection in his hometown (Luke 4:28-29) and then success in the crowd’s desire for Him to stay (Luke 4:42). It was Jesus’ communication with God the Father (Luke 4:42) as He retreated to a desert place that moved Him forward to the next place that God decreed.

Jesus is successful in not falling to the devil’s temptation unlike Adam in the Garden of Eden. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ, shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:22). Jesus Christ is our success.

Our Lord Jesus showed us what to do when we are under attack by the devil. Against each attack, His response was to say, “It is written” (Matthew 4:1–11). Jesus used the Word of God.

The beauty of the simplicity of Luke 4:42 shows us that those who seek Jesus will find Him. Proverbs 8:17: those who seek me find me.” I love how the conditions the people were in (Luke 4:40) is what led the people to seek Jesus. Just as those who are sick will seek out a doctor, we are to seek the Great Physician for our healing. We all know people who seem to be down and out as they are experiencing the effect of sin which is sickness. May those who do not know God’s love or are in need of receiving more revelation of God’s love, may their situation led them to seek Jesus, and the promise is they will find Him. And this finding Christ is a work of God (John 12:32).

The crowds sought Jesus they came to Him and had a request “that he should not depart from them.” The reason I know this is not what God would have of Jesus is that the Greek word used is katechō which means to restrain, hinder (the course or progress of).

“And he said unto them, I must”- (dei)- necessity established by the counsel and decree of God.

How do I know when a good thing is not necessarily the right thing? When we seek God’s counsel we will know how to respond. 

Stability in the Stillness

Stability in the Stillness

Daily Reading: (Psalm 37:1,3-5,7): “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong. Trust in the Lord and do good;
    dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways.”

The Psalm starts off with a very common struggle we all have in moments when someone who is not a very good person has something great happen to them while we don’t seem to have the same success. In life we can easily become envious when we see things happen for other people. When I have become envious I have stopped trusting God and feeding on His faithfulness (Psalm 37:3). The opposite of envy we see is faith, or trust (verse 3), or delighting in God (verse 4), or rolling your burdens onto the Lord.

The reward that comes from trusting God is that you will pasture in a land that is green. Your desires will be met (Psalm 37:3-4). As you delight in and trust in God your desires begin to shift. Before you might have been envious of those who are evil, but now you see them through eyes of compassion and realize how bankrupt they really are.

Verse four is an amazing promise because envy usually arises from not having a desire of your heart. You will see somebody that has something that you wish you had, and you’ll desire it to the point it can lead to envy.  So, the best way to fight the temptation to envy is to go to the promise of Psalm 37:4 and say, “Now Lord, you have made a promise to me in verse four. You say that, if I will put my delight in you, you will give me the desires of my heart. So I am now going to delight in you for you always keep your promises.” Trusting in God sufficiently enables you to rest in who He is for you and this will have a profound effect on the kind of desires you must have met in order to be content.

“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this.”

Be still or rest in the Lord. Let God work in your life. The opposite of trust can be movement or work. There is stability to be found in the stillness because I am allowing God to mold my desires to be the desires He has for me. Envy is removed as I build my trust in Him. In the stillness and the rest I need, I am leaving the whole matter with Him without being anxious as to the result. Another definition here for stillness is silence. Why is silence important when you have a dialogue going on with another? It allows the other party a chance to respond where you will hear them. In the silence I am waiting patiently for His response.

Rewards of Peace

Listen to the Message

Daily Reading: (James 3:18, Proverbs 12:20, Philippians 4:6-7):

“And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

“Deceit is in the hearts of those who plot evil, but those who promote peace have joy.”

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Peace is a beautiful gift that Jesus has given to all believers.  There are also rewards that come with peace as well.  This just magnifies the truth that not only does all fruit we bear in our lives comes from abiding in Jesus (John 15) but also that we will be rewarded for the fruits that Jesus helps us to bear (Romans 2:6-7, Revelation 22:12).

Reward #1 Peacemakers reap a harvest of righteousness (Peacemakers will show the way to receive Jesus’ peace).Christ the Righteous One, gave us His righteousness and through His life in us, will sow or spread peace out of our lives. His peace manifested through us will lead others to the way of Messiah’s peace (which is salvation).

Reward #2 There is a reward of joy for the peacemakers.

Proverbs 12 is incredible because it paints the picture of the life of someone who is in Christ. Here is what is said about the righteous children of God leading to verse 12:

  • loves discipline, loves knowledge (verse 1)
  • favor from the Lord (verse 2)
  • cannot be uprooted (verse 3)
  • just plans (verse 5)
  • their speech rescues (verse 6)
  • their house stands firm (verse 7)
  • praised according to their prudence (verse 8)
  • care for the needs of their animals (verse 10)
  • their employees are blessed (verse 11)

Reward #3 Paul says in Philippians 4:7 that the peace of God transcends all understanding. Our thoughts can be surpassed with the mind of Christ that we have (1 Corinthians 2:16). What we must desire to have in a peace robbing moment is the very thoughts of God about us and our situation.

So the reward of peace (with God) is the capacity to receive spiritual truth from God that surpasses our limited finite wisdom in all situations that will guard our hearts (affections and passions) and minds (understanding, judgment, conscience) of the favor position we have in Christ Jesus.  Peacemakers have the reward of joy, as the life of Christ in us spreads peace. This leads others to the way of Messiah’s peace (which is salvation).

Peace With All Men

Peace with all men

Daily Reading: (Hebrews 12:14):

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

If we already have peace given to us by Jesus, why should we then have to seek or pursue it? In a perfect world (heaven) we won’t but we live in a fallen world that has been marred by sin. There are people who do not know the Lord’s peace and there are others who have it but don’t live in it.

Did you know that before the Fall of Man there was peace in the world?  The Bible offers a glimpse of how restoration in Jesus’ kingdom will once again restore peace.

There will be a full restoration of Eden that was lost with sin (Revelation 22). Adam’s disobedience overthrew the order of things. But Christ will bring back everything to its condition and order.

Hebrews 12:14: NASB: “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”

“Pursue [(diōkō) seek after eagerly, pursue] peace with all men”. What this tells us is that peace with each other is not an absolute like it is with our peace with God.

So to begin with we need to strive for peace with all people.  But there is a second instruction in Hebrews 12:14 as well- “And the sanctification”

The question that comes is what does sanctification have to do with pursuing peace with all men?

What is sanctification? Hagiasmos – the state of purity, holiness. An advanced definition comes from the root of the word sanctify which means to set apart to God for His use.

“To see God, in the Hebrew phrase, is to enjoy Him.”[1]  We enjoy God because Christ has purified us and made us whole. We are set apart to be used by God because we are in Christ.  Because of our positional holiness as being found in Christ it is now possible to eagerly pursue behavioral holiness. 

“To be holy” (1 Peter 1:15) it is our calling to live in our Christ given identity and in doing so will experience the enjoyment of time spent with God, (Hebrews 12:14).

“Without holiness no one will see the Lord,” is not a threat but what will result in living in our newness of life.

How do I eagerly pursue peace with someone who is not bent on peace toward me? Peter addresses this in 1 Peter 3:8-22. It is a rather lengthy passage so if you would like to better understand verse 15 and how to do that you can in Church Membership: God’s Good Purpose Fulfilled in You.[2]

This is our calling to suffer unjustly (1 Peter 2:21), not to hurt back those who hurt us (1 Peter 2:23), and this is not a rule to keep but a miracle to be experienced, it’s a grace to be received (1 Peter 2:20). Peace with all men comes by way of not repaying evil for evil.

To conclude with Jesus says something about those who would pursue peace and they are called the peacemakers.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Blessed (makarios): supremely blessed, fortunate, well-off, happy.  You might remember that Greek word from our 7 Blessings of Revelation Series.

 A defining characteristic of peace makers is that they are supremely blessed, fortunate and happy.

Who are the peacemakers? We are given the answer in 1 John 3:2, “they will be called children of God”.

Question: So who are the peacemakers? Answer: Children of God. All believers are the peacemakers because the very peace of Jesus has been given to us.

Do you see yourself as Christ has made you to be, a peacemaker? One who is supremely blessed because you are a child of God?

The wonderful thing about this is as the world grows more violent and protests and riots become more of the norm you have been gifted as a peacemaker. As a child of God you can show the world the path of peace. Will you see turmoil and violence and chaos as an opportunity before you to be the very opportunity to pursue peace with others so that those who don’t know God might discover that peace is found in Jesus.


[1] Adam Clarke Commentary https://www.studylight.org/commentary/hebrews/12-14.html

[2] Rev. Dr. Matthew Webster. Church Membership: God’s Good Purposed Fulfilled in You. (47-50).

Peace of Christ

Peace of Christ

Daily Reading: (Colossians 3:15-17):

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Today’s facet of peace: When speaking of the Messiah’s peace it means the way that leads to peace (salvation).I am grateful for the addition of the word salvation in the Greek definition. Sozo/Salvation is to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction: to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health.

Let the peace of Christ (as in the salvation of the Lord) that He saves us, keep us safe and sound, rescues us from danger or destruction, makes us well, heals, and restore us to health lead you to His peace ruling in your hearts.

You could at any time allow the peace of Christ to rule in your heart or not. This is clear in the Greek:

Brabeuō: to decide, determine to direct, control, rule and it adds that you are the umpire. What a great picture of how this works. Life throws the ball across the plate and you decide, you make the judgment call all the time. No matter what comes let’s choose the peace of Christ.

The called to peace part of Colossians 3:15 is not written in the original Greek manuscript. It should read like this: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which indeed you were called in one body and be thankful.”  Now this makes sense because all around this verse Paul is talking about our interaction with other believers and that we are called to one body, meaning the church universal. You have a calling to the Body of Christ (Colossians 3:15). 

The question to be asked is, “how do we let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts?” The Apostle Paul gives us five different ways in the next two verses (Colossians 3:16-17).

1) Dwell in the Message of Christ Richly

2) Admonish One Another with Wisdom from the Spirit 

3) Sing to God with Gratitude in Your Hearts 

4) Do All in the Name of the Lord 

5) Give Thanks to God through Jesus

Peace Be With You

Peace Be With You

Daily Reading: (2 Thessalonians 1:2):

“Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Before we get to peace we have to start with grace. I believe it is grace that leads to peace. Until we know grace, we can’t experience God’s peace. J. Hampton Keathley III says, “Grace, one might say, is the work of God for man and encompasses everything we receive from God.”[1] That would include peace.

Grace carries with it peace. So what is peace? Eirene (peace) in 2 Thessalonians 1:2 would be: security, safety, prosperity. If grace leads to our peace than peace keeps what grace gives.

Grace and Peace cannot be manufactured it comes from God (2 Thessalonians 1:2). The Greek word for “from” in 2 Thessalonians 1:2 is apo and it means of origin of a cause. This means God is the cause and source of my life’s peace.

Peter will write something over and over again making it explicit. He begins both his letters, “May grace and peace be multiplied to you.” The verb behind be multiplied is used twelve times in the New Testament and always means increase — move from lesser to greater. So, it is important to know that both grace and peace can be increased in your life (1 Peter 1:2, 2 Peter 1:2). Peter’s desire is that both grace and peace be multiplied unto us. New measures for new moments. God’s Word tells us that when you receive revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, it will cause grace and peace to be multiplied in your life. It will cause you to receive all things that pertain to life and godliness.

The more we learn of the beauty and love of our Lord Jesus, the more we see His perfect work on the cross, and the more we position ourselves to receive a multiplication of God’s grace in our lives.

When Paul would write grace and peace to you- The word “to you” implies movement. Grace and peace are on the way. More is coming. God continues to send you exactly what you need. What an awesome Father! That’s the best father there is. He is so far ahead of us, but also is with us and He is ready to give you more and more of His grace and His peace.

 

[1] J. Hampton Keathley III. https://bible.org/article/grace-and-peace

Who May Enter Heaven?

Who May Enter Heaven

Daily Reading: (Revelation 22:14):

“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.”

 

On a surface read it sounds like there is still work left for us to do in order to get to heaven. A wrong interpretation of this blessing would leave one to think that a combination of works and grace get you into the pearly gates.  That Christ gave you the robes of righteousness but somehow during your time living on earth- they got a little dirty, maybe a lot dirty in some cases and in order to get in you got to clean yourself up.

The good news is that is not the case. What this verse is saying is that

Salvation comes from having one’s robes washed in the Lamb’s blood. We see this illustrated for us earlier in (Revelation 7:14). The washing of robes as mentioned here is a metaphor for purification from uncleanliness, meaning sin. This verse pronounces a blessing on those who are cleansed from their sin—a reference to those who are saved through their faith in Christ (Ephesians 1:7).

Only blood-washed believers have the right to partake of the tree of life from which mankind has been barred since the fall; only those with robes of righteousness have access to the Holy City (Psalm 118:20; Isaiah 35:8).

God’s plan for mankind was always to walk in fellowship with Him and to eat from the tree of life (Genesis 2:16, Revelation 22:14).

Who may enter into God’s holy city? The short answer is those who have washed robes. In Psalm 24:3-5: Who will one day get to hang out with the God of the Universe?

Who gets to hang out with God?

  • Clean hands (your deeds are completely blameless)
  • Pure heart (motives 100% pure all the time)
  • Does not trust in an idol (trusts God perfectly all the time)
  • Never tell lies. (always keeps your promises).

It is simple. You want to hang out with God? You have to have a spotless life. You have to be at a place where you don’t need to wash your robes then you can walk right into heaven and be with God.

If you do these four things David says you will receive (verse 5) the Lord’s blessing and have a right relationship with God their Savior. The world groans—who will save me? Can I save myself? No. David in Psalm 24 is singing about Jesus whose deeds were completely blameless. His motives 100% pure. He never lied and He always delivered on every promise. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. Who may enter heaven are those who are in Christ, those who are wearing His robes of righteousness.