Monday, January 16, 2012

I am a minister of reconciliation for God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)

God has not called us to freedom and relationship with Him just so we can dance around gleefully, enjoying our freedom by ourselves.  Freedom is meant to be a chain reaction...God breaks your chains so He can use you to set others free as well!

Think about this for a moment:  Even before Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, the Lord already knew His plan to bring (soon to be) fallen mankind back into relationship with Himself.  This was not a hastily contrived strategy, but a plan born in the heart of God from all eternity.  The Son of God would come to earth, live, suffer, die, rise again and ascend back into heaven. 

Then the risky part of the plan would be launched with the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  What was the risk?  That God would entrust the spreading of the good news of freedom and reconciliation to His people...weak, fallible, vulnerable you and me.  Would His risky plan succeed?  I bet the angels were biting their fingernails.  Do angels have fingernails?

Today's Scripture reads:

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself  through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

I love this passage of Scripture, in part because the Lord used it mightily in my life early in my ministry. 

I joined the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ's high school ministry right out of college.  Even though I was 22 years old and at least four years older than the high school seniors, I was still intimidated by them...especially the "leaders."  Since I was looked down on by my peers while in high school (which was before I came to Christ), the moment I walked back on the high school campus where I was seeking to minister, I reverted back to my old way of thinking.

Nobody wants to talk with me.  These students don't respect me.  They won't listen to me.  They will laugh at me. 

Me, me, me.  It was all about "me" as I was wrapped up in my own fears.  The enemy was definitely using my past against me.  And he was winning!

Then one day my director...who was older and more confident in the Lord and in himself...went with me to a high school basketball game.  I watched him as he reached out as a friend to the students.  They responded to his warmth and friendliness and pretty soon he was engaged in meaningful conversations with some of the student leaders.  I was amazed!

Later on he reminded me that God had called me to that school and that I was His ambassador.  I had every right to be there as His messenger of reconciliation and that I could hold my head high and be bold for Christ because the King of kings had sent me there.

The truth powerfully set me free and I stopped viewing myself as I used to be and started viewing myself as I now was.

So who are we?  We are new creations in Christ.  The old you and me are history.  The new you and me have come and look out world...we have been commissioned by the Most High God to spread His good news to a needy human race!  God is saying, "My Son died for you so that you can be forgiven!  I will not count your sins against you anymore if you just put your faith in My Son!"  God is reaching out, even begging people to come into relationship with Himself...and He wants to use you and me to do it!

Through Christ's becoming literally "sin" for us, we have now become the very righteousness of God in Him.

What an honor.  What a privilege.  What a responsibility.  What a high, high calling it is to be an ambassador.  And what higher calling than to be an ambassador of heaven sent to planet earth...and that is what you are!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

I am a temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Have you ever been to one of those "fun houses" at an amusement park?  It has been decades since I've been to one, but I can still remember laughing at myself.  The mirrors made my body look like a string been or a pumpkin or a pear or something else distorted.  Though it was fun, it was always a relief to look in a normal mirror and see how I really looked.

After those innocent elementary school years had passed, and adolescence arrived, I had more serious problems with mirrors.  I really didn't like myself at all...especially how I looked.  I was tall and extremely skinny.  I had nasty looking acne sores.  I was ashamed to smile after I was bashed in the mouth by a baseball bat as a kid, chipping one tooth and killing another, leaving it an incurable yellow color.

I tried everything I could to change my appearance.  I laid under a sun lamp to try and improve my skin condition.  I lifted weights and ate everything in sight.  I shaved off the soles of my shoes and slouched a bit to try and appear shorter.  I even prayed I would shrink!

It all seems pretty silly now, but at that time I was extremely insecure and didn't know the Lord. 

After I came to Christ, I realized that God wasn't going to shrink me.  That wasn't the solution to my problem.  What I needed to do was come to realize that I was fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and that He loved me just the way I was.

But the death blow to my poor self image came when it dawned on me that God has bestowed the greatest dignity possible on this (now) bagging, sagging and dragging physical body by making it His temple!

Today's verse, 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NIV) says, "Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?"

How can any believer in Christ still view his or her own body with disgust knowing that God lives there...that God moved in of His own free will...and that He will never leave (see Hebrews 13:5)!

Maybe your body would never make the cover of Vogue or GQ;  that's okay, Jesus' wouldn't have either (check out Isaiah 53:2).  But, in Christ, you need to know that you are precious in God's eyes and the presence of God in your body beautifies it beyond human comprehension!

So the next time you look in the mirror, know that what is looking back at you is the house, the home, the temple of the living God.  And God is delighted to live there.