The Christian: An Ambassador Tenth in Series: What Is a Christian?
The Christian: An Ambassador Tenth in Series: What Is a Christian?
As I mentioned, today is the conclusion for a nine week series in pursuing the question: What is a Christian? It has been a look not at how one becomes a Christian – how one enters into that relationship with Christ, that state of wellbeing in God’s presence, if you will – but is has been a look at who is that person that has become a Christian. And there are a number of pictures, a number of metaphors, that the scriptures give that paint a variety of images for that question of what a Christian is. And I thought, since this is the last week, that I’d just go through those titles and, as we come to the conclusion, have this broader sense of the picture that has been painted. What we have looked at are: the Christian is a believer, a saint, a disciple, a servant, a friend, a son, a citizen, a soldier, and then today’s topic is an ambassador. The last three topics are metaphors taken from one particular arena of life. They are metaphors taken from what it is to be part of an earthly nation or an earthly kingdom, where we are first of all citizens. And then some of those citizens may also become soldiers, participants in the army of that nation. And then today a third metaphor from that same arena: some from our citizenship, if you will, can be called on to be ambassadors for that nation or for that kingdom. And so today’s focus is on what it is as Christians to be an ambassador.
So a good place to begin is to just ask the basic question: what is an ambassador? And in today’s world it would be (I think we would agree) the person of highest ranking in one’s government who represent that government in a foreign land – often stationed there, placed there, in that foreign nation to represent their home country. They are there to speak for the nation when called upon, and to represent them in affairs that may come up. Our country has ambassadors and other countries have ambassadors, other nations including our own. Well, in some of those settings, the host nation often allows countries with ambassadors to also have a little piece of property. On that piece of property is usually a building, and that complex we know as an embassy, and the ambassador usually is the one who has control over what takes place there. He has employees who represent him and the government. And it is that sort of the modern idea of what gets involved with being an ambassador.
My only experience of interacting with an ambassador/embassy came in the year 2000. I was in the country of the Ukraine. I had lost my passport. Actually it was stolen. But nonetheless, I was without my passport. That is not a good state of affairs to be in, particularly when you think you are leaving the country the next day. But off to the embassy we went, and there began what ended up being a surprisingly quick process of meeting with employees of the embassy who were able to represent my homeland, and were in a position to make happen there what normally would take place in the homeland. Before the day was over they were able to issue me, on behalf of the country that neither of us were physically standing in, a passport. It is now outdated and it is of no use now, but most of your passports say “issued in Miami” or “Philadelphia”; mine says “Kiev, Ukraine.” But that was only able to happen because our government had set people to represent them in that foreign land, including obviously the ambassador. So an ambassador represents his home country in a foreign place.
But how does that relate to us as Christians? Well, first of all, we can say and establish the fact that the Bible describes us as ambassadors. It is Paul who uses that term, and he used it in 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.
Reading of 2 Corinthians 5:17-20.
(Transcription of audio file from 05:32 to 06:23 omitted.)
So, here Paul establishes for us – the Word of God establishes – that we are ambassadors. But how is it that we are ambassadors? How is it that we can represent someone, if you will, in a foreign country? And there is a basic point to grasp, and it is this: that when a person becomes a believer in Christ – as Paul even says in this passage, becomes a new creation – we also become at that point citizens of a new homeland. Paul emphasizes this in the letter to the Philippians; he says, “But our citizenship,” that of Christians, “is in heaven. And from it we await a Saviour, the Lord Jesus.” So with our adoption as Christians into the family of God, we are also those who are given a new home, and that new home, we are told, is in heaven. It will be a home that will last for us forever.
But in this life, where does that fit? Well, we are those who are just passing through, as we have affirmed in other settings. We are sojourners and we are pilgrims on our way to our ultimate home and on our way to the celestial city. And we are pilgrims passing through what is now, for us as believers, a foreign land. This world is not our home. So while we are in this life and in this world, we are Christ’s ambassadors. We are His representatives of His kingdom – the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is not just the apostle who was an ambassador; it is not just other apostles; it is not just ministers who are called on to be ambassadors; it is all of us, those who belong to Jesus.
So what makes a good ambassador, and what characteristics should we expect of, if you will, ourselves as we take on this role given to us as ambassadors for Jesus Christ? I am going to mention three. There certainly could be more.
Be Knowledgeable about Our Homeland⤒🔗
Now, first of all, an ambassador should be knowledgeable of the homeland – should be knowledgeable of its ways, its history, and its people. And this, I think, raises an interesting question: how can we be those who are knowledgeable of a homeland that we have never seen? Our homeland is in heaven, and we haven’t been there. But consider this: the Christian life, from beginning to end, is one of tasting and knowing and experiencing heavenly realities. The Christian life is one of living for a King and his kingdom that are very real, but not yet fully seen. And the Christian life begins when we become, as Paul says in this passage, new creations. And it begins with the Spirit of God who works in our hearts and gives us new hearts that turn from unbelief and rebellion towards the king of heaven to one of trust and faith and love and even worship of Him and of Jesus, our Saviour and our King! And what that does is set in motion a whole new orientation of life for those who are in Christ – one where we respond to what Jesus has told us in the Sermon on the Mount, where he says to us, “Seek you first the kingdom of God, and in His righteousness all these things will be granted unto you.” A Christian now lives for this King and for His kingdom and His ways, even though we are still in this world. And as we live for Jesus, we are becoming increasingly familiar with and acquainted with and knowledgeable of His kingdom and what is in reality our new homeland. And the more that we grow in these things, the more we are people who are familiar with the new homeland, the new kingdom.
So how can we be good ambassadors? In part, we can do so by being those who are committed to becoming a people who grow in our acquaintance with the King and with His kingdom. Being those who pursue venues in this life where our knowledge of Jesus Christ and what His kingdom is (not only in this life, but what it will be) can grow. And those venues really are given to us, mostly, in the context of Christ’s church where we gather for worship and there are given often experiences of tasting of heavenly realities as we are in God’s presence and worshipping Him, and as we seek context to grow in our knowledge of the King’s word, the scriptures. As He shares with us all His ways and His purposes, and as we grow in the knowledge of his people, in the fellowship of the Church (and not just our own particular churches; other churches) where we get a sense of who the people are – this new home and this new nation that God has given to us.
Some of you know that Robert Balding, an elder in our church, and I leave tomorrow. We will have a great privilege of visiting three locations: Scotland; Kiev, Ukraine; and then Berlin, Germany. And in all those settings we will not only visit with our missionaries, but fellowship with fellow believers who in this life are citizens of different nations than ours, but in an ultimate sense as fellow believers in Christ are part of the same family and kingdom that will be ours forever. Even in an experience like that, our own sense of this new family, this new nation, this new people that God has given us will grow. So an important part for us to take on this role as good ambassadors is to be committed really for all of our lives to becoming increasingly familiar with, intimately knowledgeable of the King of our new nation and His homeland.
Make Appeals on Behalf of Our King←⤒🔗
But there is a second way that we can become good ambassadors, if you will. It is spoken of in this passage in 2 Corinthians, where Paul says, “We are ambassadors of Christ, God making His appeal through us.” Ambassadors are those who are called on to make verbal appeals on behalf of their nation or their king. Now, we described earlier ambassadors as we know them today, but the ambassadors of Paul’s day did not usually have that formalized sort of role that we are familiar with today. For example, most ambassadors in those days didn’t have residences in foreign lands that were considered embassies. Typically, the ambassador of that day was sent out as an envoy on special occasions. They were sent with special specific messages from one king to another or from one government to another. For example, they may have been sent with words of congratulations on a special occasion – maybe a special anniversary for another king or the marriage of a daughter or something like that. Or they might have been sent to discuss the possibility of a special alliance – the joining together of countries against maybe a mutual enemy. Or they might have been sent to protest some wrong that would have been done by another nation – maybe the raiding of a town in their own country, and the ambassador was sent to officially lodge complaint.
Ambassadors conveyed these verbal messages for their king and their kingdoms. They had one task. What was that task? Well, was to convey a message and to do so accurately. The message that they were given was not to be altered. They were not in a position to change the message. They were not in a position to add to that message. They were not asked to shorten it. An ambassador was given one message, and his job was to articulate it on behalf of the one who sent him. As ambassadors of Christ, we are given a message, and with that message we are given the privilege of making God’s appeal to a lost world. What is that message? Well, that message, in many ways that it’s heard, is the gospel of Jesus Christ, of who Jesus is and what He has done to rescue sinners. That message is also contained in its fullness in the scriptures. In the Word of God, God’s written message is given to us. What is our responsibility as ambassadors? It is to convey that message as best as we can, as accurately as we can, not altering it, not changing it, not adding to it, not shortening it.
How do we do this? Well, in certain respects our being ambassadors in this way really can play out quite differently for each of us. It is different for a mother trying to communicate with her children. It would be different for a college student seeking to communicate with fellow college students, and that would be different from a person talking with a friend in their neighbourhood. And that would be different from another person talking to someone in their workplace, which would be different from a minister who on a regular basis preaches or teaches to a much broader sort of audience. There are differences in the settings in which we are called to be ambassadors, but whether we are a mother or a student or a neighbour or a worker or a family member or a minister, we all want to do what we can to be as familiar with the message of the King and to be familiar with His gospel, and to know His Word as well as we can so that, as much as God would allow us, we can be faithful ambassadors for Him, making God’s appeal to a lost and a needy world. So a good ambassador is a person who is familiar in increasing ways with his own homeland. He or she is a person who makes appeals for the King accurately and faithfully.
Live as a Faithful Example←⤒🔗
And thirdly, a good ambassador is one who affirms what he says by his life, being a good and faithful example of what it is to be a citizen of the kingdom of Jesus Christ. You can have an ambassador who is extremely familiar with his homeland and knows amazing things about it, and that ambassador may be articulate and able to articulately and faithfully make an appeal on behalf of their king and their homeland, but if that ambassador ends up living a life or doing something that does not represent the homeland, all their effectiveness otherwise can be lost in a second. I don’t think we can overstate the importance of how we live our lives in this matter as being dramatically important for what it means to be a good ambassador of Christ.
Paul clearly considered it important. Listen to some of his thoughts on this matter. In Philippians he would write, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” And then to the Colossians he writes, “So as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord the King, fully pleasing him.” And to the Thessalonians he would write, “To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of His calling so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified.” It doesn’t take much on our part to undermine our message in our representing of the Lord. Earlier in 2 Corinthians Paul talked about Christians being that aroma of Christ and how we in this world can be Christ’s presence. And then he says, after making that statement, “Who is sufficient for these things?” He understood that we on our own are not sufficient to be Christ’s representatives; it is Christ who makes us sufficient and able. And when we fail (and we all will fail, in one way or another), it will be Christ’s grace and the power of the gospel that we will find sufficient to forgive us, to restore us, and set us back on the path of again being Christ’s faithful ambassadors.
It is, we are told, a great honour to be asked to be an ambassador by the head of one’s government – in our case, to be asked by our president. And when asked to be an ambassador, that usually would entail for the person a decision to be made. But the God of the universe, the King of all things, has said this about his believers: He has said, “You are my ambassadors.” It ends up there is no choice involved. We are that. And over and over again the Bible says we are the ones who represent Him in this world. It was Jesus who said to us, “You are the light of the world” and “You are the salt of the earth.” As Paul, we just mentioned, said, “You are the aroma of Christ.” And Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.” Jesus would also say, “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” To give glory to the King who rules and reigns from heaven above. God has chosen us who belong to Christ to represent him, and to make His appeal through us to this lost and fallen world. We are His ambassadors. That is just the way it is.
So, will we be those who give ourselves in this life to do all that we can to become increasingly familiar with our homeland and the King of that homeland? Will we be faithful and true, to the best of God-given grace and ability, to verbally appeal on His behalf to this lost and fallen world? Will we be those who seek to live life in a manner that is worthy of the Lord, our King, the One for whom we represent? May God give us that grace. And if there would even be one amongst us today who knows they don’t know the Lord and the King and the Saviour, it would be the greatest honour granted to us that God would see fit to have our lives represent to you the truth of who Jesus Christ is and what it is that He can do for you, that you might come in and with us have the hope that someday we will be in the King’s presence and live with Him forever.
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