Not Home Yet: Take Me to Your Leader

“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. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

One of the jobs of the U.S. President that gets talked about a lot is appointing the U.S. ambassadors to all of the other nations.

nothome_350Those who accept the job are sent to live in that country as an official representative of the United States. I waited a long time for my appointment to serve as ambassador to Fiji. The call never came.

But according to God’s Word, I am already living in a foreign country as an ambassador. My real home—my real life, even—is in eternity with God forever. Between now and the day I cross the welcome mat there, I live here as a foreigner with a message from my King back home: “Be reconciled to God. He made his perfect Son to be the sin of the whole world just so he could die and pay for yours and you could be made righteous like him.”

Think: How often do you think of yourself as a representative of God to the people who call this broken world their home? When you do think of yourself that way, does it change the way you act toward or talk to or think about people?

Pray: You are an ambassador of Christ on this planet. Ask God to help you to be a good one.

Do: Ask all of your Christian friends and your family members to call you “Mr. Ambassador” (or “Madame Ambassador,” if appropriate). That will remind you of your key role in representing Christ on earth, and it will remind them that you’re just a little strange. Everybody wins.

Not Home Yet: Your Message Here

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)

Some form of the word reconcile shows up four times in these two verses. It must be an important word. It means to take something that is out of balance or broken or disconnected and make it work or put it together or fix it. Let’s ask the standard journalism questions about these verses.

nothome_350Who? God did the reconciling; not us.

What? He reconciled us to himself. Our relationship with him was out of balance, broken, headed for eternal disaster. He fixed it.

When? At the moment we put our trust in Jesus alone for our salvation.

Where? Inside our hearts now and in heaven forever.

How? Simple substitution: Jesus died in our place to pay for our sin; now God does not count our sins against us. Through faith in Jesus, we are forgiven and clean.

What next? Go tell someone.

Think: These verses say that Christians still living in the fragile tents of our bodies on this side of heaven have been given the ministry and message of reconciliation. What have you done with that message? What could you do?

Pray: Thank God for reconciling you to himself through Jesus. Ask him to help you to know how to carry out the “ministry of reconciliation” he has given you.

Do: Type the word reconcile into an online dictionary and look at all the different things that word can mean.

Not Home Yet: New! Now!

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Christianity is fundamentally different from most other major religions. Yes, it’s true: Nearly all religions promise a kind of heaven in the afterlife. And most encourage followers to obey certain rules. All require some kind of faith or belief system.

nothome_350But Christianity stands out for the reason Paul declares in today’s verse: we have been changed . . . now. It’s not just that we will one day be in heaven. It’s that we have already been made new in our hearts at the moment we placed our faith in Jesus.

Most religions promise a payoff if you work the system long enough, if you do more good than bad, if you keep yourself in line and sell out to the cause. God promises those who trust in Christ that the essential change in us—the transformation necessary for us to become like Jesus and be welcomed into heaven—happened before we could even begin to try to follow Him. It’s a gift, not a reward.

The old us is already long gone. The new us is already here.

Think: Have you ever heard people talk about hoping they can be good enough to get into heaven? Hoping to earn God’s approval by not sinning and doing the right things? How is that different than Christianity?

Pray: If you are “in Christ,” thank God for already making you a new creation. Thank him for giving you a new self as a gift and not making you work to earn it, because nobody ever can.

Do: In a few sentences, briefly describe what it means to be in Christ (as a way of being ready to tell someone else).

Not Home Yet: Time Travel Vacation

“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.” (2 Corinthians 5:16)

Imagine taking a vacation on a luxury cruise ship. I’ll go with you. What do you think we’d be thinking about, mostly? I think I’d be thinking about relaxing and figuring out how to make sure I did all the fun things on the boat before the trip was over. I would be nice to people, sure, but this trip would be for me and my friends.

nothome_350Now I’ll ruin the dream. Imagine, instead, we went back in time to walk around on the luxury cruise ship Titanic the night before it sank. Even if I knew the time machine was taking us home before the iceberg hit, my head would be in a wildly different place. I’d wonder about the fate of every person I saw. I’d want to warn them or help or something.

That’s what Paul is kind of talking about in this verse. His awareness that this life is almost over for everyone—and that the next life is the one we’re made for—changed the way he looked at people. He couldn’t spend his life just serving himself any more. And he couldn’t pretend that Jesus didn’t matter. Faith in Jesus was the urgent need of every single person he met.

Think: How many people in our lives do we think of as merely background? How many do we really look at as people made by God to be with him forever? How can that attitude change our response to those who treat us unkindly?

Pray: Ask God to help you not to think of people from a worldly point of view but to look at everyone from his perspective.

Do: Jot down a rough estimate of how many living human beings you saw or texted or talked to in some way yesterday. How many of them would you guess are “in Christ”?

Not Home Yet: Live for Who Now?

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 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.” (2 Corinthians 5: 14-15)

It’s hard to make it any clearer than this. Paul hasn’t held anything back in this chapter. He’d rather be dead and in heaven with the Lord than here on earth feeling homesick and naked and cold in the tent of his fragile human body.

nothome_350But he’s made a grim determination not to be grim. By the power of the Holy Spirit he will live to please Jesus until the day comes that he can see Jesus face to face. He will live like it matters how he lives, because it does. Because there is a judgment seat where the light will shine on all the good and bad secret places in our lives.

How about us? What better reason for living this life away from heaven could there be than to live for the one who died for us before he was raised back to life? Does his act of love “compel” us to love him back with our choices for him in the here and now?

Think: What is the difference, in your real life, between living today for yourself and living it for Jesus?

Pray: Ask God to give you the hope and courage to live this day for the one who died for you and was raised again.

Do: Paul also wrote Galatians 5:22-23. Read it to find out what his determination to live this hard life for Jesus in the power of the Spirit looked like from day to day.

Not Home Yet: Judgment for Christians

“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:9-10)

Wait a minute! What? I’m going to appear before the judgment seat? I thought the fact that all my sins are forgiven meant I would not be judged by God. I thought I was in the clear because Jesus paid for my sins.

nothome_350Well, if you have received God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus—if you are a Christian—you will not be judged for your sin. The judgment seat Paul describes here is usually called the “judgment seat of Christ.” There our works will be judged, not our sin. Your salvation won’t be the issue. Jesus paid for all of that in full.

Instead, our lives will be revealed to show the value of our choices (good and bad) while we have lived “in the body” before we get to heaven—and there will be appropriate responses to those choices.

Paul said, “Until I get home, I’m going to live to please Jesus on the day there when my works, my heart, my true choices are all revealed.”

Think: Does the idea of this judgment seem like a burden to you or an opportunity? Does it motivate you to want to live this life to please God? Should it?

Pray: Ask God to help you want to live this life in a way that pleases him. Thank him for the power of the Holy Spirit in you to help you do that.

Do: Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.

Not Home Yet: I’m Here Not There

“Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:6)

Too many Christians I know think there’s something wrong with them; they wonder if they’re missing some key part of Christianity. They look around at church on a Sunday morning and everyone is smiling and dressed nice and nodding along with everything the pastor is saying.

nothome_350If they knew how empty I feel . . . If they knew that being a Christian hasn’t taken away my loneliness . . . If they knew how much I still struggle with sin . . .

Here’s the little secret we don’t mean to keep from each other: We all know. We’re all lonely on some level. We all still struggle. Paul just told us how he groaned to leave the tent of this body behind and actually be with the Lord. We’re not there, yet. We can’t see him, yet. So we keep believing and waiting, and he keeps providing strength and hope and joy for another day through his Spirit.

Think: Do you think Christians intentionally hide from each other how deeply we struggle or hurt or groan? Do you think it would help for us to be as honest as Paul has been in this chapter?

Pray: Ask God to help you live with his courage and joy and peace today even though you can’t see him, yet. Thank him that one day you’ll be able to live “by sight” of him.

Do: Play a game: Ask a friend or family member (that you trust) to guide you around a room or through a house while you keep your eyes closed. Follow their voice commands to stop, go left, go right, etc. Notice how much harder it is to walk by faith in someone else’s voice than it is to walk by sight.