Welcome to FaithTrack where you will find ways to apply your faith to your daily life.
How does our faith play out in our lives outside of church? Are there ways for us to engage with people and be a "light on the hill." Pastor Sam outlines helpful methods in doing so.
Hi, and welcome to Faith Track. We’ve been exploring what it means to be a disciple and how the term disciple is just another word for dedicated student. So as we seek to follow Jesus with intention and dedication, we become His disciples. In our times together, we will look at a good number of passages of the Bible. I’m encouraging you to take what we discussed into conversations with others. To help you with this, we have all the Bible passages and a number of discussion questions put into a nice handout. You can access this on our website when this is showing live at cornerstonesf.org/notes. Or if you’re watching this after the fact, you can find it at cornerstonesf.org/faithtrack. In our last session, we looked at the importance of becoming a new creation in Christ and how that affects what motivates us.
In this session, we’re going to be looking at another important aspect of being a disciple. Engaging our culture, ambassadors in action. As we move forward as a new creation in Christ, it is worth asking, “What will this new creation look like as we start to engage in the culture around us?” Let’s continue in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians as we see some of what our lives are meant to become. In second Corinthians 5:17-19, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. The Greek word that is translated into reconciliation means to restore favor or re-establish friendly relations.
So through Christ, God restored the world to Himself. In the world, no one is excluded. He has given access for anyone to draw near to Him through Christ. Then God gave us, those of who would be His disciples, the ministry opportunity to be reconcilers and conveyors of the message of reconciliation. As disciples, we have been restored into a friendly relationship with God, and we have been entrusted to share this message with others. I love that. Jesus came so that we could be friends with God. Think about it. What is a true friend, but someone who knows you very well, who always wants the best for you, who will tell you the truth, even when it’s hard, and who will walk with you through the good and difficult times? That is the Lord. As we walk in the joyful reality of our own relationship with the Lord, we get to tell others about this opportunity too. Jesus reconciled the world to God.
All any of us need to do is receive this gift of grace, is become a new creation in Him, and then live this amazing life of being a disciple of His. But we may ask, “Who am I to share this?” Let’s look at what Paul said next. In second Corinthians 5 verse 20. “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Who are we? We are ambassadors. We get to represent the King. We are not just people who know about this foreign land, but we are part of the Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus came to establish and expand on earth. We are close friends of the King, people who have been reconciled to Him and have the opportunity to help others to do the same. So in this context, it’s good to understand what the role of an ambassador is to be.
So ambassadors typically serve the following functions; representing the interests of the nation or kingdom, representing and acting as a liaison on behalf of their leader, and then serving in goodwill, by working with, and responding to humanitarian needs in emergencies. Similarly, we help people come to know the good news of Jesus’ reconciling work. We welcome people to become part of the Kingdom of Heaven. We can help answer questions. We explain with gentleness and respect what His Kingdom stands for. We also serve as a liaison to our leader. As people share their joy, challenges, reservations, hopes, and hurts, we can take these back to our King through prayer. We can walk with them and encourage them. As we discussed last time, we are not trying to convert people. We were simply sharing what He has done for us and for them. Like ambassadors for countries, sometimes the door to deeper relationships and reconciliation is open through humanitarian aid, care, and compassion.
There’s a familiar saying that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. As disciples, we serve as ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven through care and compassion. Part of how we effectively engage people is through authenticity. The main criticism towards the church and those who claim to follow Christ today is hypocrisy. In chapter one of James’s letter to the churches, he describes how to represent the Lord well by encouraging us to be people who both hear the word and do the word. So in James 1:19-20, “know this my beloved brothers and sisters; let everyone, every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” If we want to engage our culture, the wisdom in these verses will work wonders. Be quick to hear. Be slow to speak. Be slow to anger. Be slow to post on social media.
Okay, maybe that last one isn’t there, but that may be where some of us voice our frustrations most readily. As disciples, we best engage others by being quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. How many of us have attempted to share our faith by doing most of the talking? How did that go? Why are we so inclined to talk so much? Generally, we are excited. I think it comes out of a good place. We know we have good news. We may even think we know things that would make the other person’s life better. But what if we tried to invite the other person to do most of the talking? What if we asked questions and really tried to get to know him or her? What would it look like to seek to make a friend before we try to share anything with them?
Isn’t that what God does for us? Restoring us to a friendly relationship first. Then introducing us to more of who He is and what He values. Let’s continue with James to see what other great advice he had. So in James, 1:21-25; “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness, so all our brokenness, and receive with meekness, with humility, the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, so what Jesus came to share the truth, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” Our faith is not meant to only be some intellectual idea and appeal.
It is meant to permeate our hearts and influence our actions and interactions. God’s word is like a mirror. It shows us what we need to address in our lives. They may show us areas of brokenness that we need to get freedom and healing in. It may show us our selfish and self-serving tendencies. Our witness and effectiveness as ambassadors and reconcilers will be affected by how we live out the truths we claim to believe. As disciples, we are to be doers of the word by putting our faith into action. Sometimes there’s a challenge here. This doesn’t mean that we need to be or to have our lives perfect. Most people cannot relate and do not want to relate to people who maintain a facade of life without problems. Instead, we should know ourselves. In our last session, I said we should not embellish our testimonies of how we came to faith.
In the same way, we should not misrepresent our lives of faith either. Jesus was clear that all of our lives will not be problem-free while following Him. In John 16:33, he said, “I have said these things to you, that in me, you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. You will have trouble. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” The more clearly and openly we share what our lives are actually like with problems, just like everyone else, the more relatable we will be, and the more appealing it is to know that Jesus can offer peace in a different way to see and move through these challenges. As disciples, our honest stories of hardship and challenge can help us be a bridge to hope. Initially, it can feel exposing and embarrassing to share our weaknesses, failures, and brokenness, but let us remember, we are seeking to be slow to speak and intentional with our words. As others share their hurt and brokenness, we need not try to match or outdo their pain with stories of our own.
Oftentimes we show greater care by listening and demonstrating compassion through helping them to feel heard and simply relating to their experiences. Let’s visit James once more, as we think about engaging our culture. James 1:26-27; “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Again, James is using strong language to explain that our faith is not meant to simply be a bunch of talking at people or expressing what we know. Instead, we are to serve the vulnerable and live according to our faith. This is like the humanitarian aid facilitated by an ambassador that opens the door to relationships between once hostile countries. Hearts are sometimes open to God by gestures of love and compassion. As disciples, we are to live according to the Word. This shows we care for those who are most vulnerable and in need.
Finally, one of the greatest things we can do to be more effective in our ability to connect to our culture has to do with how we love and engage with our own church community. At the last supper, Jesus imparted some of His greatest teachings and promises. Amongst these was a new commandment for His disciples. Jesus said “a new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this, all people will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another.” Do you think He wants us to love one another? This love and care that we practice within our church community will speak loudly to the world. We are to love one another unconditionally, sacrificially, and endlessly, just like He has loved us. When people see this kind of love, they will know that we are disciples of Jesus, and many will want to be part of a community that loves like that.
As disciples, our love for one another should look like His love and should testify to the world that we are His disciples. A few years ago, a close friend from Cornerstone was throwing a birthday party at a restaurant. We had made a reservation, but new people would be kind of trickling in as they were able to arrive in the Mission and find parking. We ended up seated at a large table in the front of the restaurant, and each time another member of the party arrived, everyone greeted them exuberantly and gathered around them to give them a hug. This happened almost a dozen times. After we ordered our food, the restaurant owner actually came out and said, “What are you guys? I mean, I can tell you clearly all like each other a lot.” We kind of laughed and then we explained that we were just a bunch of friends that went to the same church.
He said something like, “Oh, it must be a cool place.” The owner found reasons to stop by our table more than a few times that night and kept asking questions. To engage with our community, we don’t have to have an agenda. It starts with the reconciliation with the Lord, for each of us personally. Then as people who are on this journey together, we have the opportunity to love one another well. This not only helps us heal, learn, and grow in our faith, but it creates an environment that is appealing to those in the culture around us. When we go out as ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven, we can help others see that the church is filled with broken people, but that the environment of grace and love becomes an ideal place to heal and grow as well. As we get to know the people, by being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, our friendship can be a bridge to where they could also become friends of God.
So let’s be ambassadors in action like this. In a moment, I’ll pray, and then we’ll hop over to our Zoom conversation. If you are watching this after its original airing, or if you’re unable to join us for the conversation part of tonight, this is meant to be gone through in community. Faith Trackers or disciples, always walk things out, at least in pairs. So join us for the conversation if you can, or find another person or a group of people to embark on this journey together. Our primary goal is that these teachings would be a tool that can help us dig into these key areas of growth as disciples of Jesus, but also be a place in which we can ask questions and grow as we move together as a community. So please join me as I pray and then hop over to the Zoom if you can.
All right, let’s pray. Lord, we thank you for this day. Lord, we thank you that not only are we welcomed into a restored, friendly relationship with you, but then you invite us to become ambassadors of this ministry of reconciliation, helping others to become restored to you as well, to receive that gift of grace that you offer to everyone, to the world. Lord, thank you for the reminder that amongst that, you invite us to reach out and care for people. Lord, the wisdom of being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry or offended. Lord, that you invite us to be doers of the word, not just hearers of the word. It’s meant to go beyond just an awareness of what should be done.
It’s meant to actually turn into action from our hearts, that is caring for the most vulnerable, showing compassion and love, and being that bridge to hope to people who may just need someone who can listen.
Finally, a big part of where that shows up is in how we love one another. People who are loved well within the community of God are so full of love. It’s not hard to reach out with love to other people. It becomes this attractional place, Lord, and how you’ve designed it, where people see that love, love like you gave, and are drawn toward it. And so Lord, help us to love well. Help us to serve well. Help us to represent you well, to be doers of your word, as we have conversations about these things, as we encourage each other, challenge each other, and pray with one another. We just ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
All right. So if you can join us for the Zoom conversation, please hop over now. Again, the link is in the chat. But if you can’t, let’s keep talking about this. You print out the handout if you can, have a conversation with someone about it and let’s keep growing and going with the Lord. We’ll see you next week. God bless.