Every time I sit down with a family for a funeral, in some form or another I ask, what makes them tick. What are the passionate about, what makes them cry, what makes them laugh, what gets them excited. If you want to start writing your life’s story, start with those questions. Your motivations for doing what you do, the way you see things, your passions and purpose, gets to the very heart of what makes you who you are. This little scripture in the heart of 2 Cor. is larger than life as it speaks of the heart of Christianity. Embracing Christ molds you into a completely different person, your entire way of being, the way you think,
This week I aw a title of an article, “how does God fit into my life?” That’s the wrong question. But that is what a lot of searchers try to do – somehow fit Christ in so that they can be a better person. The problem is that you don’t just tack Christ in your life, like you are a refrigerator and Jesus is magnet. You don’t marry somebody and then just hang around them when you feel like it. There is a transformation, something completely new. Accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior doesn’t mean Jesus now fits in, it means Christ explodes your life.
I want to focus on three verses: 14: For Christ’s love compels us… 17: Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation… 20: “we are therefore Christ’s ambassadors… only I’m going to switch the order up slightly… As you listen to the words, can you hear in those verses motivation and perception, about transformation? Can you understand why v. 17 is often preached at Easter.
For Christ’s love compels us… in the few verses leading up to this statement, Paul is challenging the people to take a hard deep look at what Paul is all about. As Paul writes this letter, he is clearly in the doghouse with the people of Corinth'; there is a broken relationship. Clearly the people are accusing Paul of being a braggart, or just a plain nut (read 5:12, 13). Paul is saying, whether I am sane or insane, maybe I am a nut, crazy…interpret me anyway you want, but let’s get to the very heart of my motivation: “For Christ’s love compels me…” Question my decisions, hate what our relationship has come to, but you have to fit into whatever you see in me the motivating factor of Christ’s love for me.
Paul is not saying I am motivated by my love for Christ, on the contrary, it is because of what Christ has done for me “he died for all” the scripture goes on to say. Over the week-end I held in my arms a beautiful six week baby. The baby smiled. Her foster mother told me about the babies mother and father. The father is trying hard to get his life back together. He has mainly known the streets. He loves the mother. The mother is 34, but mentally about 2nd or 3rd grade. This is the mother's third baby, but shows no signs of a meth baby like the first two. The mother has a history of being used by guys. Baby #1 was the result of sex for drugs. And the courts are going to work hard to get the parents to the place where they can raise the baby. The foster mother has known the mother for years, having taken in the first two children and adopted one of them as her own. The foster mother goes beyond the call of duty of being a foster parent, as she goes and spends time with the mother for no reason at all. The foster mother says, "I don’t want anything of her, I don’t demand anything." Most people around the woman want something. The foster mother says she’s going to teach the mother to take care of her baby. She is going to love her without expectations. “For the love of Christ compels me…”
I try for that to me my motivating factor in making a difference to people. I think I am a little better at it today than yesterday, and tomorrow perhaps I’ll understand even more….to love others because of what Christ has done for you. To be motivated by the love of Christ…not for what the other person can do for you, not for personal advantages, this means it might cost you something. In the context of broken relationships, the motivation of Christ’s love is what allows compels you to go beyond what might be reasonable. People will sometimes question your motives, as they did Paul, yet if you act with sincerity and integrity, so it costs you something, that’s what Christ did, so it makes no worldly sense, that’s what Christ did. For the Love of Christ compels me… We see it on a human level, if we have any decency at all, if somebody lets us in the line of cars of a clogged road, we do the same for others… how much more Christ who loved us with the ultimate gift, “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.”
Let’s move to the ambassadors v. 20. “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” This verse is not for pastors alone, not for missionaries or evangelists. It is for all who embrace Christ as Lord. To see yourself as an ambassador. To represent Christ.
Years ago I worked in the Registrar’s office at Fuller Seminary. The Registrar was David Kiefer. One of my jobs was to verify enrollment for the purposes of student loan deferments. For each request from students I looked up the students class schedule and then wrote a standard letter to the lending institution verifying if the student was full or part-time, or on some occasions they did not qualify at all. Each letter was stamped with David Kiefer’s signature, sealed with the official Fuller Seminary Seal, and then at the bottom I’d write DK:cdc. Once in a while an irate student would come in and argue, because they were sure they were full-time and I could only verify haf-time. They’d have a copy of the letter in hand. When I felt the situation warranted it, I had the freedom to call David down from his office and talk directly to the student. I will never forget on more than one occasion, David taking the letter in hand, which he had never seen before, with his signature, and the Fuller Stamp, he could clearly see it was me thatprepared the letter, he’d talk to the student explain the situation, the student would leave, and David would turn and walk back upstairs without saying a word to me. I was the one who had verified the enrollment and prepared the letter in the name of David, and David treated it as if he was the one that had done it. To me, that has always been an amazing image of what it means to be an ambassador of Christ, to bring a cup of cold water in the name of Christ, you are Christ’s ambassador as though God were making his appeal through us.
An ambassadorship of Christ is the most amazing calling. The Lord will use you wherever you are for his purposes. If you are a Christian then you represent Christ. Start looking at the world, your surroundings, from the perspective of being an ambassador, the huge difference it makes. This week-end I had the privilege of going with Esther to George Fox University for a scholarship competition. I was reminded of when I first met Sally at UW. And as we became engaged and talked about God’s calling on our life, we instinctively knew for a variety of reasons overseas missions were not likely in our calling, but we looked forward to finding out where God would place us and how he would use us. Understanding that you are an ambassador of Christ whatever your situation is huge. It’s motivating. To see yourself as representing Christ himself, having the signature stamp and the authenticating seal is an amazing privilege. Even if you are in the middle of a broken relationship, seeing yourself as an ambassador of Christ gives you a new perspective, a new purpose, and a whole new set of tools from which to respond. I started out saying I only know how to think as a Christian, while anybody is capable of good things happening, only as a Christian do we represent Christ. As ambassadors, suddenly we can step back from the situation and evaluate our own motives, our own purpose, go the extra mile with patience, to rejoice when a little bit of progress is made in the name of Christ.
Let’s move to the final passage, v. 17: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come” Christianity at its best is about newness, continual recreation. A freshness. Perhaps this is why even among ourselves we can delight in the oldest Christians among us, I don’t know why they are so often the most joyful. Maybe the older you get the newer you get. Perhaps Christianity truly is the elusive fountain of youth that explorers of old searched.
To know Christ is to be new at heart. To be compelled by the love of Christ, to be an ambassador of Christ is exciting. I cannot imagine a greater privilege. My calling is to listen to people and bring an encouraging word when I can, so people are not alone. Hopefully the Lord has used me to bring a measure of calmness and assurance to others that life is good and that there is hope. There is a freshness and a newness to living for Christ. A person of peace is far more likely to help bring restoration to broken relationships than a person of tension and nerves. The world needs people of peace. People who have been transformed themselves by God’s love.
This week-end I stayed overnight with Cliff Harrel in the Portland area. He knows all of the core kids at the youth, and the amazing stories. I heard half a dozen amazing stories of God bringing newness, wholeness, the old is gone, the new has come, and how kids with difficult backgrounds came to know Christ as they hung out in the youth. The kids themselves are open with me. One young man is a very open book if he were hear he’d not hesitate to tell you that at 18 he is waiting for his family life to get all sorted out so he can get back to school and finish to go on to college. A ton of weird dynamics go with it, Or another young man who a few years ago wandered into some youth thing, and on the face of it he has more than enough strikes against him that it’s a wonder he’s making it at all, yet to see the transformative power of Christ in his life that you would never know the difficulties. And the stories go on. A half a dozen kids that by worldly standards should not be doing well, but they found Christ and are amazing stories of grace and restoration. A new creation.
How about you? Maybe you are a Christian, but you are more in the mode of the article that asks the question, how do I fit Christ into my life, like Christ is an add-on. Like fitting in exercise. Enlarge your mind to encompass the fullness of Christ in your life. Maybe you have never given your life to Christ. Start with the understanding that Christ died for you. Christianity is not what you do for Christ to cause him to love you, it is about what he has done for you. The impact of Christ’s love is so amazing, so incredible, so life transforming. Christ died for you. A new perspective. As a Christian, you will never see yourself the same again. And you are given a new purpose: a representative of Christ himself to other people, “as though God were making his appeal through [you].” There is no greater basis to be an agent of reconciliation than to represent Jesus Christ himself. Jesus, who died for you. I declare that you are a new creation. Christ transforms you, changes you, impacts you. There is a freshness, an aliveness, a newness… Let’s pray, “heavenly father, if anyone in this room is struggling with their relationships, let healing begin with their own relationship with you…”