“Feeling Important, Because You Are!” (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)

Let’s have a poll question today to start our discussion of the second half of 2nd Corinthians chapter five …

Which of the following would you see as the position of greatest import and potential impact? …

  1. Chief Executive Officer of a Fortune 500 company?
  2. A leading member of Congress?
  3. A pop star with 17 million followers on Twitter?
  4. Manager of the Baltimore Orioles or head coach of the Dallas Cowboys?
  5. An ambassador of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

You selected number “4”?  Logical, but wrong. The correct answer is “5.”  And that is what you are if you are a redeemed sinner-turned-saint through the blood of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul again turns to a jocular defense of his ministry leadership role, it being criticized within the Corinthian community by opponents. They said things about him that he was arrogant and boastful about his activity and roles in the church. We know also that they did not think he made the most impressive personal presentation. And some simply called him a nut-case, saying he was out of his mind. They had visible successes and grandiose impressions; Paul was talking about an inner faith and a future, unseen hope…

2 Corinthians 5:11 – 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.

Paul said that his motivation was directed toward the Corinthians for their eternal well-being, however poorly they might interpret it. The message that came to Paul on that Damascus Road changed everything about his life and motivation. His life had a new purpose and drive.

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.

I’ve gotten a bit of a feeling that some folks are wearying of my Greek word references. Sorry … just trying to make passages come alive a bit more. But do this … look back at those verses 14 and 15 and think about what word – if better defined with all the color of its usage in the original language – would most make these verses jump out even more?

I think it is rather clearly the verb “compels.”  What did Paul mean when he chose this word, and how might the original readers have understood it?  The word means in a more literal sense to “press tightly” … like to squeeze something together. This word was used in Luke 8:45 to describe the throngs of people who were around Jesus and pressing tightly against him – in that moment when the woman who needed healing exhibited her great faith by somehow reaching through the “press” to merely touch the hem of his garment. So Paul was saying he felt the squeeze to live life in an intentionally bold way of high-level motivation and action.

In fact, Paul no longer just had simple, worldly categories of seeing people as, say, being rich or poor, important or mundane, slave or free. No, rather he saw them in one of two categories: stuck in the old category of lost in sin in a lost world controlled by the Evil One, or a totally new creation in Christ.

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.

People were either reconciled to God or not. Those who were at peace with the Lord now had a new role to play as agents of reconciliation. This is the biggest story of big stories. It is what EVERYTHING is about. Life if not really about all the survival stuff we think is materially important. No!  We have a new mission, and it ain’t no small thing … it is awesome …

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.

So, don’t you feel better about yourself right now?  Hope so.  And oh, that means you’ve got work to do that counts for eternity, doing that work today, tomorrow, and every other day until the end. You can stop reading now and go be an ambassador in your world.

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The Good Kind of Driven – 2 Corinthians 5:11-21

What excites you?  What gives you purpose in life, waking you up each day with a desire to go into the world and get after living life in a big way?  In what way are you “driven?”

More often than not, when we hear that someone is said to be “driven,” it is a statement about some negative characteristic. We do indeed see lots of driven people in our world. For many, it is about power and authority. This is especially evident in government. The advanced age of so many in Congress is absolutely startling. In actual fact, out of our 100 United States Senators, nine of them are in their 80s and 22 are in their 70s, with 38 in their 60s!  Good night!  Don’t they ever want to retire and play with their grandchildren (or great, great-grandchildren)?  Well … no, they don’t. They simply can’t let go of the allure of power.

Other people are obsessed by wealth. Someone once said, “Money is not the most wonderful thing in life; love is. So I’m in extra good shape, because I love money!”  Arnold Schwarzenegger quipped, “Money doesn’t make you happy. I now have $50 million but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.”  But you get the picture, you know how people are indeed driven to accumulate both wealth and material assets, always expecting that this abundance will bring true happiness.

At one time in his life, the Apostle Paul was driven to zealously uphold the traditions of the historic Jewish faith and observance of the Law. A threat to this predominance was the growth of a fledgling group of followers of a Jewish teacher named Jesus. These early Christians of the church needed to be shut down and eliminated, and he was a crusader to make that happen.

But change came to Paul’s life and values system in a most dramatic way. We could say that his drive-train did a 180!  He was still driven, but the direction and content were entirely different. No longer was it about the stuff that could be measured by earthly standards and metrics. No longer was it about personal gain or aggrandizement. It was now all about living for God.

This change happened because of a new view about Jesus Christ. Paul now understood that God had given Christ to die for sin as the grand sacrifice for all who would believe and thereby find eternal life. Though he would still be wrongly accused of being crazy and self-serving, Paul knew he had a new mission in life … a new drive.

Being vitally related to God changes our identity viewpoint of both ourselves and those around us. In today’s passage, Paul is saying that the Christian has a new way of looking at people around him. It is not the same way people of the world look at each other. We see others with Kingdom glasses. We see them either as brothers and sisters in Christ, or we see them as enslaved by an alien kingdom – in need of our services as an ambassador of the Kingdom of Light.

So there is no reason for the Christian to be insecure. You are not just an engineer, a nurse, a teacher, a mom or dad… you are an ambassador for the Creator-God – the One who holds it all together, the eternal Father. That sure beats anything your unsaved neighbor is able to say he or she has membership within. You represent the sovereign of the universe as an agent of reconciliation and peace.

How well do you serve in this assignment?  Does it “drive” you at all?  Do you drive down the street and hurt for the disheveled people you see passing on the sidewalks?  Do you see the classmates of your children at school who clearly come from a difficult environment at home, one where faith is the primary ingredient of life that is missing?  Is your heart moved when our missions families come home and tell us about the great work of God with Iranian asylum seekers in Europe or in our multi-ethnic, sister church in the capital city of Kazakhstan?

It is nice and a very worthy thing to succeed in the responsibilities of work and family. But our primary occupation is as an ambassador of Christ to bring lost people to a reconciliation with the God from whom they’re estranged. Nothing beats that for personal identity. That is a “good driven.”

2 Corinthians 5:11-21

11 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.

You’re Kind of a Big Deal! (2 Corinthians 5:11-21)

Every so often at my Rotary club, we have an ambassador from another country come as a guest speaker. There are only a few categories of guest speakers that are afforded a standing applause welcome. Ambassadors are one of them. An ambassador is an important person. He stands in representation of the sovereign in his country, and represents all that his native kingdom values and promotes.

The Scriptures say that we are ambassadors for the King of Kings. I have always been so impressed with this concept and honored that God should so regard us in such a light as to give us this incredible title and responsibility.crown-pic

The Apostle Paul understood that he was an ambassador, and not just when he was preaching in a synagogue or proclaiming Christ in the marketplace. Paul remembered his role even when he was in jail chained to a huge Roman guard. He knew his position of service was a 24/7 kind of thing…

EPH 6:19 – Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Being vitally related to God changes our viewpoint of both ourselves and those around us. In today’s passage, Paul is saying that the Christian has a new way of looking at people around him. It is not the same way people of the world look at each other. We see others with Kingdom glasses. We see them either as brothers and sisters in Christ, or we see them as enslaved by an alien kingdom – in need of our services as an ambassador of the Kingdom of Light.

So there is no reason for the Christian to be insecure. You are not just an engineer, a nurse, a teacher, a mom or dad… you are an ambassador for the Creator, the One who holds it all together, the great Storyteller. That sure beats anything your unsaved neighbor is able to say he or she has membership within. You represent the sovereign of the universe as an agent of reconciliation and peace. So you’re kind of a big deal (to pull a silly quote from The Anchorman), although you’re only a big deal because of God’s grace and calling – it’s good to remember that!  (insert smiley face)

How well do you serve in this assignment?  Ask God to make you aware and effective as His chosen representative – it is part of your role in The Story that God is writing, along with the adventure and journey of walking in relationship with Him. And it is your way of serving as well #ForOurCity.

5:11 – 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.