I recently finished reading an excellent book by Gregory Koukl, entitled: Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions
. The book was highly recommended to me by a fellow preacher I trust, and the book is great from cover to cover! Although I do not know a lot about Mr. Koukl, this book is a wonderful work and one that every Christian (not just preachers) would benefit from digesting . The book gives sound, practical advice on how to share your convictions with confidence and grace in a world filled with anti-Christian rhetoric.
There is much more I could say about the book, but I'll encourage you to read it for yourself. I do, however, want to share some thoughts today from the last two pages of his final chapter where he writes about being good ambassadors for Christ (don't worry, this won't spoil the book for you!).
The term "ambassador" is only used twice in the New Testament. Here are the passages:
- "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God" (II Cor. 5:20).
- "And for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak" (Eph. 6:19,20).
The apostle Paul penned these verses to fellow Christians. It is true that the apostles of Christ were ambassadors in a unique sense, but all Christians today could rightly be described as "unofficial representatives or messengers" of Jesus (cf. Matt. 28:19,20). We certainly do not wield the authority that Paul did, for example, but we do have a duty and responsibility nevertheless as Christians.
So, how well are you representing Christ in your life? If Paul, an evangelist eclipsed by none, felt it necessary to request prayers on his behalf that he would not be timid in his declarations of God's truth, how much more do we need to pray for courage and strength to say what needs to be said in our daily dealings with humanity? There are opportunities everywhere to influence others for good, but we will miss many (or even most) of them if we are not careful. You must "sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear" (I Pet. 3:15). And friends, you don't have to wait to be asked either! You can and should share your faith as often as possible--and why wouldn't you, if you really believe Jesus has the words of life that the lost desperately need (cf. John 6:68,69)?
How can I be an effective ambassador for Jesus? Koukl lists ten points in his book (pp. 199,200) which I have included below. His list is good, and I have tried to improve it by adding Scriptures that come to mind that underscore the truthfulness of his points.
An ambassador is...
- Ready. An ambassador is alert for chances to represent Christ and will not back away from a challenge or an opportunity. II Timothy 4:2 reads - "Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." We must be alert to doors of opportunity the Lord opens for us, and then we must step through them--even when it is intimidating or inconvenient.
- Patient. An ambassador won't quarrel but will listen in order to understand, then with gentleness will seek to respectfully engage those who disagree. II Timothy 2:24 states - "And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient." If you lack patience, your efforts to influence others in a positive way will be hindered.
- Reasonable. An ambassador has informed convictions (not just feelings), gives reasons, asks questions, aggressively seeks answers, and will not be stumped by the same challenge twice. Paul commanded Christians in I Thessalonians 5:21 - "Test all things; hold fast what is good." Our reasoning skills are given by God and He expects us to use them properly (cf. Isa. 1:18).
- Tactical. An ambassador adapts to each unique person and situation, maneuvering with wisdom to challenge bad thinking, presenting the truth in an understandable and compelling way. Colossians 4:5 comes to mind here - "Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time." Paul provides a marvelous example of this with his life:
"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel's sake, that I may be partaker of it with you" (I Cor. 9:19-23).
- Clear. An ambassador is careful with language and will not rely on Christian lingo nor gain unfair advantage by resorting to empty rhetoric. Peter instructed Christians in I Peter 4:11 - "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen." We must speak accurately and unambiguously.
- Fair. An ambassador is sympathetic and understanding toward others and will acknowledge the merits of contrary views. Philippians 2:3,4 instructs us - "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." It's possible you might be wrong and need to adjust your views! Having an open mind is important and it's only fair that you should possess that which you also desire in those you speak with (cf. Matt. 7:12).
- Honest. An ambassador is careful with the facts and will not misrepresent another's view, overstate his own case, or understate the demands of the gospel. Ephesians 4:15 states - "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ." Often this verse is used to emphasize the importance of speaking the truth in love. Such is appropriate, but let us not forget that the words we speak lovingly must be true! We must be honest in all things.
- Humble. An ambassador is provisional in his claims, knowing that his understanding of truth is fallible. He will not press a point beyond what his evidence allows. II Timothy 2:25,26 shows the need for this attribute - "In humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will." Humility is vitally important when reaching out to a wandering brother in Christ or an unbeliever. We want them to come to their senses and change! An ambassador with a proud and boastful spirit will have less success achieving this goal.
- Attractive. An ambassador will act with grace, kindness, and good manners. He will not dishonor Christ in his conduct. Paul commands in Colossians 4:6 - "Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one." Although we cannot control certain aspects of our physical looks, we have full control over our attitudes and speech. Remember that Jesus died for every soul--not just yours!
- Dependent. An ambassador knows that effectiveness requires joining his best efforts with God's power. Ephesians 3:20,21 affirms - "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." Jesus does amazing things today through His body, the church. He will work through our lives for good--if we will let Him!
Dear followers of Christ, may you look into your life and evaluate your effectiveness as an ambassador of Christ, making changes where appropriate. Let us close with I Corinthians 3:5-7 - "Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers through whom you believed, as the Lord gave to each one? I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase."
Thank you for listening, and may the Lord bless you as you strive to do His will.