On Saturday, March 6, 2004, Rene Messier and Edwin Pope will be giving split sermons.
Ambassadors for Christ
by Dave Harris
We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:20 that we are ambassadors for Christ. Just what is an ambassador? Briefly summarized, an ambassador represents his country and his country’s leader to other nations and their heads of state.
An ambassador needs to be mature and respected — one who is familiar with the customs, laws and regulations of his nation which he is to represent to others.
As we have seen, Paul admonishes US to be ambassadors FOR CHRIST. Let us ask ourselves, then, how are we doing in our role as ambassadors? Are we mature and respected Christians — well rounded and familiar with the customs, laws and regulations of God, as revealed in His Word, the Bible? If we are not, then we are falling short of our responsibilities as Christ’s ambassadors that He, the living head of His Church, bestowed upon us.
Notice, it doesn’t say that we are to become ambassadors — or we that we are to fulfill roles similar to those of ambassadors. Rather, we are told that we ARE Christ’s ambassadors. With that responsibility given to us, it behooves us to be very familiar with God’s laws and the application of God’s laws in our lives. We need to diligently follow Paul’s admonition to Timothy: “Study [God’s Word] to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15, Authorized Version).
The Bible gives us many examples that we need to emulate in our roles as ambassadors. It is important, as Paul continued to point out in 2 Corinthians 5:20, that, in order to be effective ambassadors for Christ, we are to “be reconciled to God.”
We cannot be reconciled to God unless we put sins out of our lives. Sins, unrepented of, cut us off from God (compare Isaiah 59:1-2) and therefore become a barrier to developing that close relationship with God, that we need to have to be effective ambassadors for Christ. Rather than refusing to repent, we are to draw near to God, and He will draw near to us (compare James 4:8, first sentence). We do so, when we cleanse our hands and purify our hearts (compare James 4:8, second sentence). This is how we can “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” as we are admonished to do in 2 Peter 3:18.
As we approach the Passover season, let us examine and test ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:28; 2 Corinthians 13:5), whether we are truly in the faith and whether Jesus Christ is mightily living in us. We can only be effective ambassadors, if Christ lives in us, leading and directing our lives. Christ will only live, and continue to live within us, however, if we are diligent to overcome our sins, as God and Christ will not dwell with sin (compare Deuteronomy 23:10-14). Let us therefore draw near to God by repenting and forsaking our sins, and by cleansing and purifying our hearts. When we do this, we will be faithfully fulfilling our roles as ambassadors for Christ.
This Week in the News
Ongoing Terror in Iraq
USA Today reported on March 2, 2004:
“Coordinated attacks in Baghdad and Karbala, aimed at Shiite Muslim pilgrims celebrating one of the holiest days of the year, left more than 143 dead and another 100 wounded and raised new concerns about civil war in Iraq.” The paper explained:
“The holiday marks the 7th-century killing in battle of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Mohammed, Islam’s founder. It is the most important religious period of Shiites, who represent 60% of Iraq’s 25 million people… The attacks threaten to increase tensions between the minority Sunni Muslim community, which was favored by former leader Saddam Hussein, and the majority Shiites.”
Der Spiegel Online added that under Saddam Hussein, the celebration of the holiday was prohibited, and that many of the Shiites injure themselves on this day with whips and swords to express their grief for Imam Hussein. A member of the Shiite party was quoted as saying: “How is it possible that a Muslim can do such a thing [killing others] on the day of Hussein? Today, war has been declared on Islam.”
Iraq does not find peace and tranquility. USA Today listed some of the deadly bombing attacks in Iraq since the war began March 20, 2003. According to the paper, over 120 people died in August; almost 50 died in October; almost 50 died in November; 25 died in December; over 80 died in January; almost 250 died in February; and at least 125 died so far in March, 2004. The gruesome lesson of history is again written in blood in the country of Iraq: War leads to more war; and bloodshed leads to more bloodshed. Will man ever learn that he cannot achieve the way to peace through war and violence?
Gay Marriages in California
As BBC News reported on February 21, 2004, “more than 3,000 gay couples have been married in San Francisco since the city’s new mayor decided to defy state law and allow such weddings.” After two failed attempts by a conservative group to secure court injunctions barring the union, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger wrote the state’s attorney general to act against the city of San Francisco. He stated in his letter:
“Our civilized society and legal system is based upon a respect for and adherence to the rule of law… The city and county of San Francisco’s unfortunate choice to disregard state law and grant marriage certificates to gay couples directly undermines this fundamental guarantee. Because the city and county of San Francisco’s actions are directly contrary to state law and present an imminent risk to civil order, I hereby direct you to take immediate steps to obtain a definitive judicial resolution of this controversy.”
However, as USA Today reported on February 27, 2004, “The California Supreme Court declined a [subsequent] request by the state attorney general Friday to immediately shut down San Francisco’s gay weddings and nullify nearly 3,500 marriages already performed.” The paper continued: “[The] justices… told the city and a conservative group that opposes gay marriages to file new legal briefs by March 5.”
The paper also reported that “the Social Security Administration has told its offices nationwide not to accept marriage certificates from San Francisco as proof of identification for newlyweds looking to make name changes on Social Security cards.”
In the midst of this hotly debated controversy, President Bush announced that he backed a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage. A measure to do so was introduced nearly a year ago and is pending before Congress. However, it takes years for a federal amendment to make its way through Congress and the state legislatures. Three-fourth, or 38, of the states would have to ratify a constitutional amendment. It is therefore obvious that a constitutional amendment, should it ever pass, will do nothing to resolve the current situation in California.
The following statistics (adopted from USA Today) show how wide-spread is the controversy on marriages or civil unions of same-sex couples:
Full-fledged same-sex marriages are only allowed in The Netherlands, Belgium, and two Canadian provinces (Ontario and British Columbia). Several countries register same-sex partnerships or same-sex cohabitations, namely Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and three Canadian provinces (Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Ontario). In addition, some countries grant certain civil rights to unregistered cohabitation of same-sex couples, namely Argentina, Australia, Croatia, Hungary, New Zealand, Portugal, Scotland, South Africa, Switzerland, and six Canadian provinces (British Columbia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, and Yukon Territory).
In spite of these different opinions, rules, regulations and laws, if man were to only look at the Bible for guidance and directions, none of those opinions and rules would exist, as there would not exist same-sex marriages or cohabitations. But even our Christian nations that embrace the commandments of God, may do so in word, but not in practice.
A Mockery of the Sabbath
News Journal published an article on February 7, 2004, titled, “All days the Sabbath.” It continues to point out that “area pastors” claim that the Sabbath day “may be Saturday or Sunday — or even another day of the week — depending on a person’s beliefs.” To support this incredibly human reasoning, which is in total defiance of God’s Holy Word, the Bible, those “area pastors” are quoted as follows:
“The seventh day can be at any time that we take to cease from our work to rest and to commune and fellowship with God… Sunday is literally the Sabbath, the day I worship, but then I figure my day off is my Sabbath, too… I think Sabbath is a matter of the heart more than it is a specific day or time.”
It’s not important, however, what man “thinks.” God has made it very clear that the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy refers to a specific day, and that day is distinctively NOT Sunday. How tragic it is that “ministers” don’t teach the truth of God, but rather self-invented arguments derived from the carnal human mind. When Christ returns, He will NOT allow such heretical preaching to continue.
To learn more about the TRUE weekly Sabbath, as well as the annual Holy Days that GOD has enjoined us to keep, please read our free booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days.”
Schroeder and Bush Meet
As CNN.com and other sources reported on February 27, “German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and U.S. President George W. Bush say their differences over the war in Iraq are in the past,” stating that the “relations are good” between the two countries. In a common statement, the two leaders announced, according to Focus Online, that both countries are to work for a free Iraq and the vision of two states, Israel and Palestine.
The German press reported about the first meeting in the White House in 25 months with caution. Bild Online stated that the two leaders are not personal friends – -“but they have never been” personal friends. The paper also stated: “Why the sudden change of heart of Mr. Bush? He is under much pressure due to the beginning of the governmental election campaign. There are not enough jobs, and the budget deficit is getting larger [According to abc.news.com of February 27, “Bush Budget Said to Cause $2.75 Trillion Deficits.”] Now the strong man in the White House needs help from without.”
Der Spiegel Online commented on February 28, 2004: “This is not a close friendship.” On February 27, 2004, Focus Online translated into German an article of the Wall Street Journal, claiming that Schroeder has become Bush’s “plaything.” The article claimed that Bush is in desperate need of new friends, and his group photograph with Schroeder can be used to give the impression as if Schroeder is again on board. However, many observers in Germany don’t buy it.
An article in Der Spiegel Online, dated February 27, 2004, published the results of a poll of the highly respected Allensbach-Institute. According to the poll, over 71 percent of Germans feel that the United States looks after its own interests in a “reckless and egoistic, selfish way.” About half do not feel that the United States is capable of solving international problems. Only 20 percent believe that the United States is the only world power that is capable of intervening in crisis situations. At the same time, over 90 percent believe that good relations between the United States and Europe are important. Almost 68 percent feel that Europe and the U.S. need to stay partners, but that Europe should pursue a more independent policy from the U.S.
The Bible has prophesied thousands of years ago what the relationship between the United States of America and Europe will be, just prior to the return of Jesus Christ. To find out, please read our free booklet, “The Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.”
Why should we anxiously wait for the arrival of the Kingdom, if all it offers us is the opportunity to rule over others? I never wanted to rule over others, so this does not really appeal to me. Satan was given rule over this earth, but it was not appealing to him, either. Also, why should we anxiously wait for Christ?
In a recent sermon, titled “How it Will Be As God?”, we attempted to show, from the Biblical revelation, the extent of man’s future. The sermon is posted on our Webpage.
Our hope for the future is not so much summarized with the concept of “ruling,” than it is with beautifying life and with guiding and helping others to live a peaceful life, in accordance with God’s Way (compare Isaiah 2:1-5).
We are looking forward to the end of this physical life and Christ’s return, because of the great hope of salvation and glory set before us (that we actually will be God — a literal member of the very God Family). We do so in spite of the present trials and the temporary Great Tribulation yet ahead for this world. We know that God’s love will never allow us to go through something that is too difficult for us to handle (1 Corinthians 10:13). Christ promised us: “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption [including freedom from pain and suffering] draws near” (Luke 21:28).
Satan (originally known as Lucifer) was perfect at the time of his creation — the “seal of perfection” and “perfect in [his] ways” (Ezekiel 28:12, 15), but he was created with free moral agency; that is, he could choose. He was given rulership over this earth, but he became proud and wanted more — he wanted to rule the entire universe, knocking the God of the universe off His throne. It appears that Lucifer would have been given that rulership anyhow, in time, but God wanted to see first how he was doing on earth. When he rebelled, he disqualified himself from ruling over the universe — and even over the earth, but he had to stay in power, until a Man would qualify to replace him. The first Adam failed, but the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, succeeded, overcoming Satan and sin in the flesh. Still, Satan is allowed to stay on his earthly throne, until Christ comes back. In the meantime, God calls some out of this world, to overcome this world, sin and Satan, so that they, too, can enter the Kingdom at Christ’s return.
In order to meditate on what to look forward to, let us first look at all the things in our lives now that are painful; that we don’t like; that we want to go away. Whatever it is – – it will all be gone. Whatever we may dream of (subject, of course, to it being right and good and not against God’s Way of Life), we will receive.
Let us notice some of these promises:
Psalm 16:11: “In Your presence is FULLNESS of joy; At Your right hand are PLEASURES FOREVERMORE.”
Matthew 25:21: “I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the JOY of your lord.”
Psalm 30:5: “Weeping may endure for a night (the darkness of this world in which we are living today), But JOY comes in the morning (when Christ, the morning star, appears on this earth).”
Revelation 21:4: “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain.”
Isaiah 35:10: “And the ransomed of the LORD shall… come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
Isaiah 9:7: “Of the increase of His government and PEACE There will be no end…”
Christ is telling us that we can have His joy and inner peace in our hearts today, if we cast our burdens on Him and let Him carry them (compare Matthew 11:28-30) — in spite of our present tribulations. He has given us the following promises:
John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you.”
John 15:11: “These things I have spoken to you, that MY JOY may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.”
John 16:20: “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy.”
John 16:24: “ASK, and you WILL receive, that your joy may be full.”
John 16:33: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Christ also said that He had overcome Satan; that Satan had nothing in Him. Today, Satan is like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour. He is broadcasting feelings of discouragement, hate, anger, hopelessness and despair. Discouragement and a lack of hope for our ultimate future come from Satan. He failed, and he does not want anyone else to make it. That is why he has GREAT WRATH toward God’s elect, knowing that his time is short (Revelation 12:12; compare, too, verse 17). But we are told that the devil and his demons cannot separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38-39), and that God in us is MIGHTIER and GREATER AND MORE POWERFUL than the devil.
Paul tells us how we can overcome Satan, and that the end of his rule on earth is sure:
Ephesians 6:11: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against [demonic powers].”
Romans 16:20: “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.”
When we feel Satan’s influence in our lives, we must act like Christ, who told Satan during His temptation: “Away with you, Satan” (Matthew 4:10).
We also read in James 4:7-8: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he WILL FLEE from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
Also Ephesians 4:27: “Give no place to the devil.” Paul warned that we are not to be ignorant of Satan’s devices, so that he cannot take advantage of us (compare 2 Corinthians 2:11).
This means that we are not to entertain his ideas or his thoughts of discouragement. God has in store for us a wonderful life far beyond human imagination. Satan knows this, and he tries to make sure that we either don’t grasp our incredible human potential, or that we lose clear vision for our future. He disqualified himself, because he was not content with what God had offered and given him at that time, and he wanted more. He convinced Eve to follow his example, desiring to receive right away what God had not offered her at that time. We must not make the same mistake. Knowing the great love of God for us, we know that our future is going to be breathtaking, joyful and peaceful beyond our wildest dreams. We will be able to really HELP others and free them from suffering and pain. With that motivation and vision, we can truly pray to God with all conviction: “Your Kingdom Come.”
How This Work is Financed
This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.
Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson
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