2nd Corinthians – Wayne Barber/Part 22
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©2006|
|Well, first of all, an ambassador, we want to look at his selfless heart. His selfless heart. Verses 14-15, “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died.|
The Character of an Ambassador for Christ
Turn with me today to 2 Corinthians 5, and we’re going to be looking today beginning in verse 14 and going down through verse 17. We’ve been talking about being ambassadors for Christ and this is part 2 of that little mini-series in the midst of this study through 2 Corinthians. And today’s message is entitled, “The Character of an Ambassador for Christ.” What’s he like? What’s his character? What do you look for in an ambassador for Christ?
Let me just get you into this by reviewing a little bit. But it’s such a wonderful thing when a believer realizes that part of his assignment here on this earth is to be an ambassador for Christ, an official representative of Christ, wherever he goes, whatever he does. And as an ambassador for Christ he carries with him a message. Not a message from man but a message from God. And this message has the power in it, the power of the gospel. For Paul said, “I’m not ashamed of the gospel for in it is the power of God.” The power to save souls. Can you imagine? We’re ambassadors on a mission. And everywhere we go we carry a message from God that’s able to transform people’s lives. The responsibility of an ambassador is to simply share this good news with all who will hear about the Christ that lives within him. And then he allows Christ to make His appeal through him to the lost people around him. All we do is reason with them, but God makes His appeal.
Second Corinthians 5:20; we’re not even there yet, and yet that verse carries us right along. It’s like the current of a river. It says in verse 20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ,” and here it comes, “as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Paul as an ambassador for Christ was totally unafraid to speak truth in the face of whoever was hostile. It didn’t bother him; death was not a problem to him. He says in 4:13, “we also believe, therefore also we speak.” He understood the awe, the divine respect, the honor for the Lord Jesus who lived within him. He lived to persuade men never to please men. It says in verse 11, “Therefore knowing the fear” that word means awe, respect, honor, “of the Lord, we persuade men.”
Now we saw the last time how Paul understood that two-fold responsibility in persuading men. He knew that he could only convince men, he knew that, he could reason with them. But only God could convict them. You say, “Show me that in Scripture.” Oh, I’m so glad you asked. Romans 15:18 says, “For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed.” God did that. He didn’t do it, he just reasoned with them in the Scriptures, but God the Holy Spirit brought these people to conviction.
You see, Paul lived in the power of God’s Spirit. He told the Corinthians in his first epistle, “I don’t come to you with eloquence of speech and with wisdom. I come in demonstration of the power of the Spirit of God.” He knew that God knew how he was doing what he did. It says in verse 11, “Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men,” and then he makes that statement, “but we are made manifest to God.” Boy, that’s powerful. He knew that God knew and that’s what kept him going. Men criticized him, they thought he was nuts, but he knew that God knew.
But the problem he had was not with God at all. The problem he had was with the believers there at Corinth who wouldn’t even stand up and defend him in the face of his accusers. Verse 11, the last part of it, “and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences.” He says, “We’re not again commending ourselves to you. But we’re giving you an occasion to be proud of us so that you will have an answer for those who will take pride in appearance and not in heart.”
Oh, the grief that comes to a person who wants to be an ambassador for Christ, a person who represents Christ, a special representative with a message that can transform lives. The grief is that the very people that are persuaded by the God that lives within this individual who is an ambassador, they’re the very people that will not stand and open their mouths to defend him, and he can’t depend upon that. He’s got to know that God knows and that’s good enough.
Last part of verse 12 says, “that you may have an answer for those who take pride in appearance, and not in heart.” I don’t know a lot about the living translation so I’m not putting my stamp of approval on it, I just don’t know a lot about it, but I do like the way they translate this verse. It says in verse 12, “Are we trying to pat ourselves on the back again?” Is that what I’m doing? He says, “No, we’re giving you a reason to be proud of us so that you can answer those who brag about having a spectacular ministry rather than having a sincere heart before God.”
I can only imagine what spectacular things these false teachers use to so convince these people that they wouldn’t even open their mouths to defend a true servant of God like the apostle Paul. Does this remind you of anything that is going on in the 21st century? The spectacular versus the sincerity of heart? Paul’s humility and his total devotion to Christ stood out in stark contrast to what these false teacher, those who were criticizing him, those who were tearing him down, those who had so enamored the people there in Corinth that they wouldn’t even speak up for Paul. What a difference in the two groups. And he’s made reference to this all the way back to chapter 1 if you follow it through.
So he says to them, “For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God.” In other words, if we appear to be nuts, if we appear to be crazy by the way we live, if the devotion of our heart, if the sincerity of our motives, if this somehow bothers you, the fact that we’re not tied to this world but we’re anchored to the Lord Jesus Christ, then so be it. We’re not living to please you. We don’t have to have you understand us. We know that God understands. We’re living to please him.
But then he says, “if we are of sound mind, it is for you.” What he says is there are some things you do understand that we’re doing. You understood the message we preached. Take these things and use them to defend us in the face of those who are trying to tear us down and not giving us credibility.
Well, Paul did not draw attention to himself or to man’s ability in what he did. That’s why he says that in Romans. He said, “I would not dare speak of anything that I’ve done. I would only speak of what Christ has done.” He always pointed to the adequacy of Christ, never to the adequacy of his own, that he’s come up with something. But again, the believers at Corinth couldn’t seem to get it. They were so infatuated with the way the world does things, that if it looked good on the outside that seemed to appeal to their flesh. Well, nothing new under the sun, is there?
Well, today Paul is going to show us what it means to have character which is so different from the false teacher, so different from those who use church and use Scripture for their own gain. I want to show you the character of an ambassador for Christ and he’s continuing again to draw that line between the humble sincerity of a true servant of God and those who are only out to get a crowd and then to fleece a crowd. He tries to make the difference and he’s trying to tell the Corinthians, “Why can’t you see the difference? God knows, I just wish that you could know.”
Well, there are three things about the character of an ambassador for Christ and I want you to just be asking yourself the question, I’ve had to go through the pain of asking myself this and now you have to suffer with me. Are you an ambassador for Christ?
An ambassador for Christ has a selfless heart
Well, first of all, an ambassador, we want to look at his selfless heart. His selfless heart. Verses 14-15, “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died.” Whereas the false teachers who were critics of Paul were spectacular in their methods, drawing attention to themselves, Paul wasn’t that way. Paul and his team were much more concerned that all that was done, we sang it awhile ago, is done out of the love of Christ which motivates them, and for the spiritual benefit of others.
He says in verse 14, “For the love of Christ controls us.” Now I want you to make sure you understand this phrase. The word “control,” sunecho, which literally means “to hold together,” but figuratively in the sense that we’re using here, it means to control, to constrain, or to compel. It comes from the Greek word sun, which means “together” and the word echo, which means “to have or to hold.” The picture here is that something is constraining and helping a person to where he’s so focused that nothing else, there’s no room for anything else. God’s love has so captured the individual.
We sang awhile ago, “Lord let Your love surround me, saturate me.” This is what the idea is. When you start living in the love of Christ, it focuses you. It pushes out all the fleshly garbage that is there and suddenly it gives you a direction in life. The actual love of Christ is not a quality, it’s who God is, was operating in Paul, constraining him, controlling him, holding him together, causing him to live the way he lived. No wonder he said in Ephesians, “That you be strengthened in the inner man so that you might comprehend what is the length and the breadth, and the depth, and the height of God’s love,” because it’s going to be that love that is going to focus you. It’s going to be that love that’s going to cause all the flesh that is dropped to the side, it’s going to be that love that is going to give you the motivation that you do everything for the benefit of others.
The love of Christ is a selfless love; it’s not human. It’s not anything like a human love. It’s so divinely different. He gives an example here. He says Christ has so unselfishly loved the world that He died for all, for the love of Christ controls us. And then he said, “I’m going to build a point here:” “having concluded this, that one died for all.” By saying, “having concluded this,” Paul uses the word krino, which means “to make a judgment about something.” In other words, by mentioning what Christ has done for us on the cross, he’s bringing up the supreme example of what this love is. And he’s made a determination here that this love is what’s going to focus his life and this becomes the foundation of the point that he’s making.
It can be translated “that as,” “that as one died for all.” Christ paid a debt He didn’t owe when mankind owed a debt it could not pay. “One died for all.” Now it’s important in this phrase, “one died for all” to realize that Christ did die for the sins of the whole world, not just the elect. I understand what people are saying. No, the elect are the ones who’ve experienced it, but you’ve got to move away. He died for the sins of the whole world. “Show me that in Scripture.” Thank you for the challenge. First John 2:2, “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” We understand that He died for the sins of every man that was ever born. But does that mean that every man that was ever born is going to receive it? No! It does not.
The phrase “therefore all died” in verse 14, “that one died for all, therefore all died,” has the definite article right before the word “all.” Now you have to stay with me, don’t let me lose you here. “Therefore, [the] all died,” and by using the definite article, he’s referring to a particular group. Everybody that He died for is not going to receive that. He wishes that they’d be saved, but He doesn’t will it to happen. He knows that a lot of people will reject that. However, there’s a particular group that has died with Him. “For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all [the] died.”
Anytime you see a definite article in Greek, it identifies something and it’s trying to tell you something. When it’s not there it qualifies, but when it’s there it identifies. This group that has died with Him is referred to in verse 15. We find out who these people are. It says, “and He died for all, that they who live [there’s the ones he’s talking about] should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.”
Now these that live are the believers that are the ones who now, because of having been crucified with Him, they’ve died with him. Perhaps you don’t understand this: it’s salvation. You died; that’s why Paul says, “I’ve been crucified with Christ. I’m not the same person anymore. That old man that I used to be is dead, it’s gone.” And now what he says here is those who have been set free, those who live—and you can’t live unless you’ve been to the cross and at the cross you die so that you might be raised to walk in the newness of life—the people that have been crucified with Him are now free from the selfish old life that they used to live. They’re set free from its power; it doesn’t have to control them anymore. The love of Christ now controls them. Living selfishly for oneself—and this is tough for a believer who sometimes lets his flesh rule his life—it’s the mark of a nonbeliever.
A person that lives selfishly, only for himself, is an unbeliever. It’s habitual in his life. Verse 15, “and He died for all, so that they who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” Paul and his team lived for Christ and not for themselves, and this meant in order for them to do that they had to die with Christ, to the old person that they used to be. Christ in them had given them a brand new motivation in which to live. You see, a person that doesn’t know Christ has none of this in his life.
“Well, I’ve seen selfless people out there that are pagans.” Listen, if you could milk it down and they stood before the divine standard of God, you would see a selfish agenda hidden in there somewhere. Christ in us is what gives us the privilege of never again living for ourselves. You see, when you are saved you’re not just set free from sin. You’re set free from yourself. It’s self that is causing us all the problems and He separates us from it. He breaks its power and puts a new motivation within us. It’s the very heart of God.
All that they did now, Paul and his team, was for the benefit of others because they lived for Him and they lived through Him. First John 4:9 says, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him.” God’s love in them, and His love in us, is a selfless love and that causes a divine motivation to do what we do only for the benefit of others. Now what a contrast, what a contrast to the false teachers who were the critics of Paul in Corinth. The very people wouldn’t even defend the apostle Paul.
Look at the difference in the heart of what they did. Verse 15, “and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves.” Now, use this as a subjunctive mood—I know this sometimes doesn’t appeal to some people but I’m just going to quit saying that. I’m just going to go on—the subjunctive mood means “it’s iffy.” In other words, you’re going to have Christians, like at Corinth, many of which have never chosen to yield to the One who is that love. And therefore they’re not controlled and constrained by His love. They’re moved and controlled by their flesh. They have chosen to go back and submit to its power which is such a mistake. It’s such an error.
This means that it goes on today, doesn’t it? There are a lot of believers in the church of Jesus Christ to this day that still live for themselves. Get all you can, can all you get, sit on the can and poison the rest. It’s that selfishness; it’s that self-motivation that salvation has set us free from. So if you’re living selfishly, you’ve had to make a choice to do that because the divine nature you’ve partaken of that Peter talks about, the very nature of Christ, lives within you and His nature is to live not for yourself but for the benefit of others. And a person who lives for themselves is a person who is negating the power of God and the constraining, controlling, compelling power of His love to motivate them in life.
Well, He who died, He died for all “so that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” So if you’re a true ambassador for Christ today there is a selfless motivation in your heart. You don’t live for yourself; you live for the spiritual benefit of other people. And that’s not because of who you are, that’s because of whose you are and who He is in you. That’s Him, that’s who He is. When Christ is ruling your life, that’s how you know because you never think of yourself, you’re thinking of other people, you’re thinking of Him, and you’re allowing Him to be who He is in your life.
And when you’re around people like that it just overwhelms you, doesn’t it? I’ve been in Romania so many times. I got to thinking about when we went to a church and the Communists, when they would come to the services under Communism, they let you know who they were. I’ve shared a little of this with you before, where this particular church, a guy had dark glasses on in a night service with the lights that weren’t bright to start with. You know, under Communism they didn’t have any light, street lights or anything. And here he is wearing sunglasses in the service. And sat there and just stared at me. And I preached to him that whole night. I didn’t even look at anybody else. I got his eye and stayed right with him and preached about the love of the Lord Jesus Christ and what the gospel is all about.
Well, that was the night that we left and the secret police were right behind us, on our bumper, no lights, four of them in the car. Quite a story but I won’t go into that right now. What happened after the service, they had a member of their service that knew that an American was coming to preach the gospel and they just said, “What do Americans like to eat?” There was no food in Romania. When the government and propaganda people would come through, they’d put boxes in the store room windows to make it look like there was food but they were all empty. They didn’t have anything. People would stand in line four blocks long just to get a loaf of bread.
And this man had gone a hundred miles—you have to understand, no money, they’re poor as they can be; they took up a little offering to get him some gasoline money—he’d had to go 100 miles to buy food for us. Now there’s one thing I hate to eat. I’m sorry, I just don’t like it, and it’s liver. I don’t like liver. But this little fellow had gone to find something that wasn’t rotten, something that was edible for us. They didn’t have any refrigeration or power and electricity and so stuff would just spoil.
And he brought potatoes back because he said Americans liked French fries. But he had gotten chicken livers. It was the only thing he could find and they came back and fried up those chicken livers and didn’t have anything else. And we had French fries and chicken livers and mineral water.
But that’s all we had, but I tell you what, because of the sincerity, they wouldn’t eat. They set us down first. We said, “No, no, you’ve gone to the trouble. You sit down and eat. We’ll eat last.” “No, you eat first, you’re special to us.” And there wasn’t enough food for everybody and we saw that and they were offended if we didn’t eat. And that was the best chicken livers I ever put in my mouth. You know why? Because of the sincerity and the purity of their heart. That’s what an ambassador for Christ is. The love of Christ compels him. The love of Christ constrains him. There are a lot of people who still live constrained by their flesh and that’s why there is all the garbage that takes place in people’s lives.
An ambassador for Christ has a special discernment
Well, the second thing he mentions here about the character of an ambassador for Christ is his special discernment. He doesn’t see people like everybody else sees them. He sees them differently; he sees them through the eyes of the Lord. He doesn’t observe the world the way the world observes the world.
Verse 16, “Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh.” Now that “therefore,” keys right off of the verse. The love of Christ has so changed us, we don’t see people the same anymore. He says, “we recognize according to the flesh.” The word “recognize” there is the word oidamen. Eido we’ve looked at several times in this study. It means “to perceive something clearly.” It means “to intuitively know something.” Paul saw men as either sinners separated from God, or he saw them as believers who have died with Christ and now who live constrained by His love.
He didn’t see the nice cars that they had in the garage like the world sees. He didn’t see how big their house was and what subdivision they were from. He didn’t see how successful they were in the world. He didn’t look at their talent and their ability. He could care less how well they could do something on their own. He didn’t see them the way the world saw them, he saw them through the eyes of Christ because the love of Christ constrained and compelled him.
People were either lost and bound for an eternal hell or they were saved and there was no in-between. There was no gray matter. God helps us to see people for the way He sees them. Not for whether they are black or white or anything in an ethnic way. He looks at people’s hearts and a person who is an ambassador for Christ, compelled and constrained by the love of God, sees through that old outer, spectacular stuff that the world is so enamored by and sees the hearts of people.
Paul lived to persuade man, and I want to tell you, he says in Romans 1:14, “I am under obligation.” “I wake up every morning as if I’m up under a debt both to Greeks and barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.” He saw everybody, no matter where he went, kings or paupers, it didn’t matter. He saw everybody as a candidate to hear the message that could transform their lives. God had so changed him and God was so changing him that he saw through God’s eyes.
“Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” Go back to that little phrase, “from now on.” Now be really careful of that word “from now on,” hence to mislead us and make us think that Paul had just come to that conclusion. The word is the word apo, and it does mean that there’s been a separation from a former way of thinking, but it in no way specifies the time that this took place. Paul didn’t just wake up one morning and decide, “I’m tired of looking at people the way the world looks at them. I’m going to change today. I’m going to start looking at them the way God looks at them.” Heavens, no. Once he died with Christ, which is what salvation is, at that moment he got the mind of Christ, and at that moment his heart was changed. At that moment the love of God came to live within him and at that moment he was separated from ever again looking at men the way he used to look at men.
“Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.” Now, in the phrase “even though we have known Christ according to the flesh,” Paul points back to the time he didn’t know Christ in a spiritual way and he realizes he once lived the way he sees now is the wrong way to live. He refers back to a day when he was thinking of Christ the way men thought of Christ. He thought of Christ as a mere man. He estimated Christ from His outward appearance until that day in Acts 9 when he met Him on the Damascus Road and he was blinded for three days, and son, he never saw Him again that way.
That’s why he said earlier, “I know the fear of the Lord. I’ve been in His presence. I’ve been in the third heaven for goodness sake. I know who He is. I don’t see Him the way I used to see Him. I don’t see Him as a human being. I see Him as a God-man and I see Him as the Lord of my life.” “Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh.” Paul had been there and done that. I like that last phrase, “yet now we know Him thus no longer.”
When a person is an ambassador for Christ he lives to persuade men of the life-changing power of Christ who died for him and them, so therefore everyone is a candidate. Everyone is a candidate and he does not regard anyone the way the world regards them. They’re either lost, bound for an eternal hell, or they’re saved, living in the love of Christ, constrained by His love, or they’re saved, having made the foolish mistake of letting their own flesh compel them rather than the heart, love, and motivation of Christ within them. He saw them as either lost or saved.
So his selfless heart, he didn’t live for himself. He couldn’t. The love of Christ constrained him. He lived for the benefit of others. His special discernment was that God now let him see the world from God’s eyes and God’s point of view, not from men’s point of view. You know, we could bring a movie star here, we could bring a sports figure, we could bring somebody that the world thinks is up here somewhere, and I guarantee you there will be people at this church, in every church, not just ours, that would be so enamored. And they could know this much about the gospel and stand up and act as if they were preaching and everybody would applaud and just love the spectacular. They love the heroes, they see from fleshly eyes, but there would be many others and hopefully more than that who would see through it and they would understand how God is looking at this individual.
The book of James, he says, “What are you doing? Man, you’re putting the poor people in the cheap seats and you’re putting the rich people in the good seats. Is that the love of God?” You see, that’s what happens when people start looking at the flesh. Have you ever made this statement, “Boy, if so-and-so ever gets saved, God could sure use him”? Have you ever made that statement? God could care less about that individual’s ability, that individual’s talent, God could care less. God is only impressed when He looks at me and you and sees Himself. And when you see a person that the world, they clap and applaud because of how spectacular they are, ask yourself how you see them. Can you see through the veneer? Can you see through the fake and can you see the heart like God gives that discernment to an ambassador for Christ? How would he know who to share with if God didn’t give him the discernment to know and to see through? He doesn’t look at people the way the world looks at them.
An ambassador for Christ has a spiritual change
But then thirdly, and finally, the spiritual change that has occurred in an ambassador for Christ. He says in verse 17, and you’ve heard how many times this verse? I wonder if you’ve ever heard it in the context and the flow of 2 Corinthians? I hadn’t until I studied it. “Therefore,” what’s the “therefore” there for? I know, you’re going to get that part. Why is it there? Because of the selfless heart that God has given him, constrained by the love of God who cannot do anything for his own benefit, always looking out for the benefit of others, and then you see that discernment. He starts seeing people and he’s overwhelmed at the lostness of people, but he’s also overjoyed at the believers he’s around. And I tell you, “therefore,” making a point here.
“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” In this world of 21st century, we have, I believe, the most watered down idea of what Christianity is in the history of Christianity. We have the most flimsy, egotistical view of salvation that I know I’ve ever seen in my life. And Paul is going to help them define “what is a believer.” Therefore, what is a believer? Who is an ambassador for Christ?
“Therefore,” and then he opens it up to anyone and everyone who claims to be a believer. “Therefore if any man”—it doesn’t matter if you’re a preacher, teacher, it doesn’t matter who you are—“if any man is in Christ.” He says if anyone is in Christ. Now why would he say “in Christ?” You know, it’s amazing how many people are religious and still haven’t seen this. They don’t understand that when they’re born into this world, they’re born into Adam. You’re either in Adam or you’re in Christ. And when you become a believer, then you are taken out of Adam. Anybody who is in Adam fears death because after death comes the judgment and judgment means eternal separation from God.
But when a person is taken out of Adam, it’s salvation. He’s put into Christ. That’s what salvation is. When you receive the Lord Jesus Christ you realize you’re a sinner born in Adam—you live for yourself; you’re controlled by yourself; you’re compelled by yourself; everything the flesh wants, you pursue—but when you become a believer, God has taken you out of Adam and He has placed you into Christ. And when He places you into Christ, not only are you in Christ, saved forever, but Christ is in you.
Paul says in Romans 6:3, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” Let me explain that to you. If I had a big bowl up here today and it was a clear bowl and I put red dye in it and I took a white cloth, and I put that white cloth in that red dye and I submerged it, it’s baptized into it. We’re now in Christ. But something else has happened that you’ve got to understand. The moment I’m placed into Christ, the moment the white cloth is put into the red dye, something happens to the cloth. Not only is the cloth in the dye, but the dye is in the cloth. He’s a brand-new creature. That’s what he’s talking about here.
If anyone is in Christ, if anyone who has died and that means that at salvation you die, the old man is gone. You are a brand new creature. “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature.” The word “new” is kainos, qualitatively, totally brand new. Your wife has never seen anything like you before because the old you is gone. You’re a brand new creature. Your Mama, your Daddy, your husband, your children, they’ve never seen anything like this. What a radical change has come in your life because you’re not the same anymore. Not only are you now in Christ, having been taken out of Adam and all that condemnation is gone now, but now you’re in Christ and Christ is in you. Totally brand new.
“Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature.” The word “creature” means “creation.” God has made you what you are as a believer. God has come to live in you. And Paul continues to explain, “the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” The “old things” is the word archaios we get our word “archaic” from it, “that which was from the beginning.”
Now I know there are many things that you could add to this list and I understand that, but the narrow context that he’s talking about has been those false teachers and the difference between a believer and a true ambassador for Christ and their heart. What is the one thing that marks the old things that were from the beginning? Listen, what we used to be in Adam—listen carefully—what we used to be in Adam was devoid of any possibility of ever living for the benefit of somebody else and that old way of living we have been now set free from. It’s gone when we become a believer; new things have come.
It’s lost its power to control us. It’s lost its power. I tell you, if you’re miserable here today for any reason, I’ll tell you why. Because if you’re burdened, that’s something different. But if you’re miserable, your flesh has compelled you. Your flesh has controlled you and God set you free from its power. He set you free.
False teachers who live day by day selfishly peddling the Word of God for their own personal gain, more interested in their spectacular ways of getting a crowd and fleecing a crowd than in the people who came to hear them and the hearts and the life change that could come into their lives, they show this selfish love. And it’s amazing how the Christians in Corinth couldn’t see the difference. They still hadn’t got it. If we’re going to be an ambassador for Christ, we’ve got to get a handle on this. The old life of living for one’s self has perished in the believer, gone forever.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. A brand new way of living has come when you say yes to Christ which is the way you received Him, and when you say yes to Him, His Spirit, which is the Spirit of love, produces His character in you and all of a sudden the world looks differently, the sky is bluer, the grass is greener, people are sweeter, it’s incredible how you see people. You’re seeing them the way God sees them, not the way you want to see them. And we’ve been set free, free.
I’ll tell you, down here on this earth I’m so grateful I’ve been set free from the penalty of sin. But even more than that, because I haven’t yet understood all of that, even more than that, I’m so thankful I’ve been set free from Wayne. It was a long time before Simon Peter understood that he was set free from Simon Peter. He could give up his nets in a minute, but he couldn’t give up Simon Peter. And that’s what salvation does for you and me. It allows us to live compelled by His love.
We live by faith, yielded to God’s Word, and the world looks at us as if we’re crazy and people who take it for granted their Christianity and still live after the flesh look at us as if we’re crazy and God says, “Son, keep on going. I know what you’re doing and I know why you’re doing it. I set you free from what you used to be and the world hasn’t got a clue what’s going on in your life. But you keep on living, son, you live for Me and if you live for Me, you’ll live for the sake of other people, selfish people. Selfish people have no clue about what salvation is all about.”
God says, “I’ve set you free from that lifestyle. You’re free now to live for Me and for the sake of other people.” And anytime that you see that old self raise its head, you know it’s there and it will be critical, it will be judgmental, it will be so arrogant as if it actually thinks it knows what God is doing. But thank God for the grace of God.
You know, most of us have lived long enough to understand and appreciate this. But I’ll tell you the younger generation scares me. They can’t see beyond their own arrogance, and I guess that’s the way God designed it, you reckon? I’ve thought about it. When I finally could travel, I’m older and don’t feel like it. If I could have done that back when I was 30 and had the ability, I would be a mess by now. I guess God just designed life that way; isn’t that funny? Get a motor home and can’t even feel like putting the gas in it. Use it as an extra closet or something.
The character of an ambassador for Christ: he has a selfless heart. This may take years for this to generate but I believe when he begins to see God and he begins to let Jesus be Jesus, the love of Christ constrains him. He has special discernment. He just doesn’t see people the same way. He’s not enamored because somebody is rich and he’s not put off by the fact that somebody is poor. He sees people and he sees hearts because he’s been spiritually transformed. He’s been radically changed. He’s a brand new creature.
So my question to you is: Are you an ambassador for Christ? My Uncle Jake, when I was growing up, I loved him. We got a phone call one day when I was about 10 or 12 years old, somewhere in that area and said Uncle Jake had gotten saved. And the first thought I had was, “Right. There’s no way he’s going to get saved. There’s no way.” He was rough as a cob. And we never could go on vacation, never had a car that would go 25 miles outside the city without breaking down. And we finally got an old car that made it and we went on a vacation. A real vacation and went to to see Uncle Jake.
And at that age I was real interested. Is he really different? Well, he walked out the door, I’ve never forgotten this, I didn’t know this verse at that time, he walked out the door, hair combed, clean shaven, I think he wore a tee shirt his whole life. I don’t think he ever even owned a real shirt, but it was clean. And I remember as a young boy sitting there for three days on that weekend, listening to him talk, and never hearing a cuss word come out of his mouth. And I didn’t understand the radical change that verse 17 is trying to say to us.
“Brother Wayne, I know I used to drink and now I’m saved and I’m still struggling.” I know that is going to be a problem. But I want to tell you something. There’s a radical change that comes. We can’t be an ambassador for Christ until first of all we’re a child of God. My biggest fear is that we’re living in a generation that so many people have joined the church and missed Jesus by miles. Billy Graham said, “If I could just believe that 20% of all the crusades that I’ve ever done were saved. If just 20%, I could go to bed at night and sleep. They came forward, they made the signal, but their life never showed up.
You see, where there’s a root, there’s going to be fruit. Yes, the Corinthians took a while. Where are you today? Are you an ambassador for Christ? What’s your heart like today? Do you see people like God sees them, or the way you’d rather see them, the world sees them? Is there a radical transformation in your life?