Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 4/18/04
"Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit" (Matt. 21:43, NIV).
There are not many kingdoms left on earth today, though several countries still have at least a token monarchy. Many countries, however, have ambassadors to other countries, and most maintain an embassy in the capitol of the country to which the ambassador is assigned. The word "ambassador" means, "1. a diplomatic official of the highest rank, sent by one sovereign or state to another as its resident representative; 2. a diplomatic official serving as permanent head of a country's mission to the United Nations or some other international organization." As world affairs ebb and flow, we become familiar with various ambassadors because of their appearance in the news. Before Saddam Hussein's regime fell, most of us remember Terik Aziz, the "butter wouldn't melt in his mouth" dispenser of Saddam's latest ploy to avoid accountability for his actions. The ambassador for a country speaks for the head of state there. He's the appointed "mouthpiece." I mention this because Paul says we are ambassadors for the kingdom of God:
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 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. 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" (2Cor. 5:17-20).
These verses came to mind because of an e-mail from a fellow traveler on The Glory Road. He wrote, "The churches have so abused the whole concept (of seeking the lost) that sometimes I'm not clear on what our part is in helping someone--other than reciting the 4 spiritual laws (ugh). Just thinking out loud, it seems that, first, our foundation must be solid on "Who is in the saving business?" It ain't us, right? Yet, amazingly, we are called to be ambassadors or announcers of this good news.
"Olly olly oxen free!" was part of a game we used to play as kids. I think the game was "kick the can." When whoever was "it" went too far afield looking for those hiding, one of them could sneak back to home base, kick the can and announce "Olly olly oxen free!" I think this meant those hiding could come home free of penalties. Isn't that essentially our message? You are home penalty-free! All you have to do is hear the proclamation. And all will be given ears to hear in time. Or do we need first to sing four stanzas of "Just As I am" to set the right mood? I have done some serious thinking about what is our part vs. what is His part." End Quote.
This brother was perhaps writing "tongue in cheek," but his comments sparked me to contemplate Paul's statement that we ARE ambassadors for Christ. Our job description is that we are to announce that God has made all things new; the old has passed away, and we are a new creation in Christ. What good news that would be to most of the world in this hour. As America has discovered in Iraq, there's quite a bit more involved than just getting rid of "the old," without having "the new" to take its place. The Shiite majority were abused and murdered by Saddam Hussein and now they accuse the coalition of treating them the same way. Being knocked around is their "at home feeling," as one writer puts it. By that, he means that some people are so accustomed to abuse that they seek it out. Have you ever noticed that people who were abused in childhood often marry an abusive spouse? Without God's intervention, we gravitate toward what we are used to, sad to say.
Lenny believes this phenomena explains why God was so physically harsh on the children of Israel after He liberated them from Egypt. They had been slaves for four hundred years, and were kept in servitude by the lash and terror of death on the spikes. All they knew was physical punishment.
On this same topic, Charlie Rose had a guest on his show Monday evening, who said he knew just what to do about the debacle in Iraq. He reminded the viewers of an action the British took against a city in the Middle East in the 1920s in which they utterly destroyed a rebel stronghold. The man suggested that if the US were to obliterate the city of Fallujah, the location of the bloodiest fighting between the insurgents and the coalition, that this would stop the rebellion cold. He said that harsh treatment was the only thing they understand and respect.
Of course, those of us apprehended by love know that brutality wouldn't work in the long run, but the point is that the Middle East has been seething with rebellion and rage for millenniums as one nation after another has ground the hapless inhabitants beneath it's boots of war. It is not enough to tell them that the old has passed away without giving them something to take its place. The problem is that governments can only employ soul power to change things, which is often a Band-Aid, not a cure. It is only God who can make us brand new from the inside out. Reconciling the WORLD to Himself in Christ, He did not count their sins against them. Lenny reminded me as I was reading this to him that when Jesus paid the price, He paid the price for all men (1Tim. 4:10). Salvation, love, mercy and grace are His free gift to all men.
I really like our friend's metaphor, using the game of "kick the can" to describe the good news God's ambassadors' are to tell the world. Do we tell the unsaved to "come on home penalty free" because God is not counting their sins against them? Or do we tell them, instead, about what they must do to get the goodies? It has been my experience that well meaning though they no doubt are, the church never removes the threat of penalties when speaking to the lost. In our real estate career in our former life in California, we had a young couple come to us looking for a house. Turns out, they were part of a group who had come as missionaries from Tennessee or Kentucky. Missionaries???? That's right, they were sent to what they considered a godless state to bring their version of the gospel. When they asked us if we would join them in some street ministry at the corner of Hollywood and Vine, I told them straight out, "If you are going there to tell them that God loves them and paid the price for their salvation, then count me in. If, however, you are going to tell them what rotten miserable sinners they are and that they will burn in hell if they don't repent, count me out."
They were shocked, of course, and walked away shaking their heads, but I felt that response deep within my spirit, long before I ever put it into words. Occasionally, we see people here in Neosho, standing at the intersection of highways 60 and 59, wearing those sandwich board signs which scream, "Repent! The end is near. Hell is forever. Make your peace with God now," or some such other horrible travesty of the gospel message. It sickens me, because fear of hell fire is the poorest and least effective excuse for seeking God. The churches have used it for two millenniums now, and it is not working because it is is fueled by soul power, limiting the good news of the kingdom to only those who can comply with the requirements. Flesh and blood (soul power) can never inherit the kingdom, Paul declared (1Cor. 15:50).
When John the Baptist came on the scene, he preached, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near" (Matt. 3:2). It came to me that this was an example of soul power (works), because even though John came to prepare the way of the Lord, he and all the people who heard him preach lived under law, which depended on soul power (works) to give them right standing with God. The passage continues, "People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River" (Vs. 5-6). Clearly, the visible church today is still operating by soul power, living by law. They are still calling for repentance and confession and baptism, even as John did, which expresses willingness to leave the old behind, but leaves the practitioner far short of the new creation that God promised. For example, I feel sure that many of the Jews whom John baptized were in the crowd screaming, "Crucify Him" to Pilate (Mark 15:14). Soul power never has more than limited success.
John the Baptist knew that his message was a stop gap teaching, for he said, "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Matt. 3:11). He promised them more to come, and I can't help but think that were he on the scene today, he would chastise some churches the way he did the religious leaders of his own day: "But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham" (Matt. 3:7-9).
Our entrance into the kingdom of heaven has nothing to do with our credentials, our lineage, or our works. It's all about what God has done for the whole world in Christ, and that's hard for religious folks to accept, because it means giving up the credit for their efforts. No doubt Jesus had that in mind when He said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it" (Mark 10:14-15).
Little children, for instance, laugh and clap their hands and receive whatever you give them with joy. They do not fret about earning it, or paying you back the kindness you gave them, but merely accept what is offered with thanksgiving.
Because John the Baptist lived and died before the cross, Jesus said of him, "I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he" (Matt. 11:11). To the extent Christians are still preaching law and trying to live by rules, they have not seen the kingdom. I used to worry that this was a sign that the person had not truly been born again, as per Jesus' words to Nicodemus: "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit" (John 3:3-5). Now I see that God has this all under His control. Perhaps Jesus was merely telling Nicodemus that soul power won't cut it. You'll never see or enter the kingdom of God by your own works. It takes Holy Spirit power to reveal the kingdom to you.
Many have projected the kingdom of heaven out into the future, and thus, have missed the beauty and benefits of it NOW. Jesus never intended this interpretation, for He said, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:27). It's here now! It came when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost and He continues to reveal the kingdom to us today. For His own reasons, God still blinds the eyes and stops the ears of the religious and reveals Himself to children and harlots and tax collectors.
I was reminded again that God has always worked through a remnant. Those who see the kingdom and walk in it today are in the minority. A lot of bad news is being preached from the pulpits across the land, by means of Television, Radio, and the Internet. The ambassadors of the kingdom are called to leave the plow behind and go tell it on the mountains of the world that Christ Jesus the Lord is reigning from the throne NOW. The kingdom of God is here, fueled by Spirit power, which leaves nothing to chance, and does not depend on soul power, no matter how worthwhile its efforts may seem.
Father, let us see you on the Throne, high and lifted up, gloriously transcendent in the lives of your children. We ask You to reveal Your unconditional love to everyone in the world. We thank You that You have called us to be ambassadors to the world, declaring the Name in all the earth. Use us to proclaim glad tidings to the poor, salvation to those burdened down by sin, and healing to those who need the Great Physician. Where there is war, let there be peace; where there is bitterness and hatred, let there be mercy; where there are religious works, let there be grace, and where there is want, let Your riches abound. Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
"Soul Power, I"
"Abraham's DNA, Soul Power, II"
"Faith or Works? Soul Power, III"
"Three Blind Mice, the Guilt Factor, Soul Power, V"
"Soul Power Revisited, Soul Power VI"
"That Tree, Soul Power VII"
"The Far Country, Soul Power VIII"
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 4/22/04
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/18/08.