Ambassadors for Christ – Irresistibly Free

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This past weekend, Lead Pastor Ben Snyder closed out our current series Irresistibly Free with the message entitled “Free to Live.” I’d like to spend some time analyzing 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 to get a better understanding of what it means to live irresistibly free. The apostle Paul wrote 2 Corinthians in about 55 AD to encourage believers to follow the way of Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:20
So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

In verse 20, Paul spoke to the church in Corinth with the directive to be ambassadors of Christ. He implored the Christians in Corinth to be reconciled to God.

What does it mean to be an ambassador? According to the Oxford dictionary, the definition of an ambassador is “a person who acts as a representative or promoter of a specified activity.” An ambassador for Christ is someone who has given their life to Christ, been set free from sin, and is living free from the evil ways of this world. They are commissioned to work as citizens of God’s kingdom, representing truth and light in deceit and darkness so others will see God’s grace in them.

Matthew 5:16
In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

2 Corinthians 5:21
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

This verse is basically the summation of apostle Paul’s ministry. He preached the death, resurrection, and lordship of Christ so that, with faith in him, we may have eternal life. This could also be called the great exchange. The Good News of the gospel is that Jesus Christ not only died for our sins, but his goodness was given to us through grace, thus the great exchange.

Christ was sinless, and because of this, he was the only one that could be offered as a sacrifice for our sins. In the Old Testament, it was commonplace to make sacrifices to a deity for atonement of sin. However, now we do not need to offer sacrifices to atone for our sins because God offered his only son as the ultimate sacrifice for us.

How did God make reconciliation possible?

John 3:16 NIV
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Living as ambassadors for Christ allows us to live irresistibly free!

Questions:
Have you been reconciled to God? If not, what is stopping you? If so, are you an ambassador for Christ? Do you live a life connected to Christ so others can see him in your deeds?

Are you living irresistibly free?

Next Steps:
If you have not already done so, join us for our Summer Text Campaign by texting SUMMER to 419-419-0707.

Join us this weekend as Lead Pastor Ben kicks off our new series, The Bible is Greek to Me.

Prayer:
Dear Father in heaven, thank you for sending your Son to free us from the sins of the world. Grant us discernment so that we can stay strong in times when we feel under attack. Open our minds so we may see the atonement that Christ endured for us on the cross. Help us to know that through Christ’s sacrifice, we are spiritually free and can experience your love for us. It’s in his beautiful name that I pray, amen.


This post was written by Jennifer Macke. Jenn has a son, daughter, granddaughter, and grandson, and she thanks God every day for them. She is enjoying retirement and feels blessed to be writing for LivingItOut. She was raised in an Evangelical Church, but her spiritual life awakened when she started attending CedarCreek.


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God’s Gift is FOR-GIVING – Irresistibly Free

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In Christ, you are a new creation—a new person!

What should you do with this gift? What does this clean slate mean?

Because of the unique ways God formed us from our very beginnings, it means something entirely different to each one of us (Psalm 139). Paul tells us that we are to use this new life to give new life to others.

2 Corinthians 5:17-19
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.

I think of this scripture in light of last week’s message. (If you didn’t watch it, make sure you do!) The only way to positively impact a relationship is to get to know the other person better—be curious about what interests them and seek to understand their worldview and what shaped it. It takes time; it’s an investment.

I don’t know about you, but the people who have impacted my life the most are those who were willing to spend time with me, listen to me, and ask questions about what has shaped and informed my thinking. My best friend is a Christian who has very different political views than me. We also have different ideas about how Jesus fits into our lives, yet, I love her and have spent the last several years doing life with her. Aside from enjoying her company, I hope to bring more Jesus into her life and the lives of her family. I have learned a lot from her but am still trying to understand why she holds certain views. And I believe she has done the same with me.

It is my relationship with her that gives me hope for getting along and loving others who do not hold the same worldviews as me. I cannot turn my back on people for whom Christ died because they don’t think the way I do. Jesus did not leave us with that option! He spent time with and loved people who were nothing like him all throughout his life.

He knows us and loves us all! And he calls us to do the same, by loving the people he puts into our lives no matter how differently they live, vote, look, or choose. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation—to exercise forgiveness and restore friendly relationships, to no longer count people’s differences against them. But how?

Acts 1:8
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

In Christ, we receive this power! The power to do what we, given our own resources, could never accomplish. Tap into it! His power will help you love one another and reconcile with those different from you, just as you and I (as different as we are from Jesus) have been forgiven and reconciled to God through Christ our Savior.

Questions:
Do you spend much time with people who think and/or believe differently than  you do? If not, why?

Is it hard for you to engage in conversations with people of differing worldviews?

Next Steps:
Set a goal to find and talk to people who do not believe as you do.

Wait! Do you know why you believe what you believe? Perhaps this is where you should start. (I often find I am most defensive about my views when they are not firmly established in my own mind.)

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, help me recognize that I don’t know everything there is to know and be willing to learn from people who think differently than I do. Give me the humility, I sincerely pray, to seek more to understand than to be understood, be quick to listen and slow to speak, and be slow to get angry (James 1:19). Help me to remember that everyone is not entitled to my opinion, and I do not have to have the last word in each and every conversation! Let me live in the light of your love, as your new creation, shining for your glory and drawing people to you! In the beautiful name of Jesus, I pray, amen.


This post was written by Lauri White. Lauri is one of the 25 people that God used to start CedarCreek in the Fall of 1995, and was on staff until 2013. Lauri loves Jesus, and loves helping people, especially women, live out of the truth about who we are in Christ. She and her husband Mike live in Oregon, but now spend winter months in Florida near daughter Kelda and her family.


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Wash Away the Old Me – Irresistibly Free

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I always wanted to be better than I was often perceived growing up. I strived to gain more out of life. Most of the misperceptions came from society, but there were also lessons I was taught in my childhood that  gave me a sense of pride and resulted in a belief that I had to be better than my counterparts to level any playing field. It wasn’t always easy or right, but that’s how it was.

Sometimes the disadvantages stirred something inside me; I had a problem with “talking-back.” My grandfather said I always had to have the last word. He wasn’t wrong.

In time, I learned that my past, athletic prowess, intelligence, and color didn’t define me, but something was still missing. I thought I alone determined who I would become. You can imagine how self-inspiration created more difficulties. My pride was too often driving the boat.

2 Corinthians 5:17
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Living in our pasts—holding on to the wrong things people say about us, our hurts, and our habits—can imprison us. How can a cage become a refuge? Jesus offers us an opportunity to wash away our old lives. It’s not contingent on social class, color, or our past actions. It’s a promise for anyone who is willing to let go and let God. It’s a baptism of love. It doesn’t make us perfect, but it makes us clean.

Questions:
What’s stopping you from living a new life in Christ? Do you let the past dictate your present?

Next Steps:
Start attending a weekend service and check out Groups to gain more understanding on how to live a new life in Christ.

Take the next step of getting baptized or tell someone what it means to be made new in Christ.

Use this guide personally or share it with someone: Baptism Bible Study

Prayer:
Jesus, let me always remember what it means and what is gained by living in you instead of for myself. Thank you for including me in your promise. Please continue to encourage me to share my faith with others so that they can decide to be made new. Amen.


This post was written by Jaron Camp. Jaron is a storyteller and a professional ghostwriter who enjoys using his gifts to write for the LivingItOut. When he’s not developing fictional worlds, researching, and writing, Jaron enjoys watching sports, participating in family game night, and spending time with his wife and four kids.


Check out the Latest LivingItOut Podcast

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Building Courage for Christ – Irresistibly Free

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Have  you ever read Jesus’ “Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed” in Matthew 13:1-23? The seeds fell in a variety of areas: on the footpath, in shallow, rocky soil, among thorns, and in fertile soil. Each area is a representation of how we receive God’s truth in our lives. After 42 years of being a child of God, I must confess I have been all of them. Why is that? Fear.

Stepping out in faith and sharing the Good News of salvation with others face-to-face requires a willingness to be ridiculed and mocked—a kind of courage that I have not always possessed. If this is your problem too, it is important to remember 2 Corinthians 5:17-19:

17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. 19 For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.

How awesome is it that we are his and we’ve been invited into the opportunity to share his wonderful message? Fear can tell us that we are not enough, that we are not up for the task. But that’s when we need to remember we are his—and that equips and empowers us to share his Good News with others.

Acts 1:8      
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

2 Corinthians 5:20:
So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”

When we accept this truth, it is like seed falling on fertile soil. Instead of fear choking out what God wants to do through us, we can boldly share his message with others and watch God do more than we could ever imagine. The more you trust God’s word, the less fearful you are about failing him and the more confident you are about sharing him.

Ephesians 3:20
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Questions:
Are you comfortable and eager to share God’s love with others? If not, why?

Have you accepted the truth that you belong to Christ and he has empowered you to share his message with others?

Next Steps:
There are many opportunities to grow your relationship with Christ to become better prepared to share the most important thing anyone can possibly hear: You are loved in spite of your sins. God loves us so much he sent his only begotten son to save us so that we could live in fellowship with him forever.

There are so many ways to grow your faith in and relationship with our Lord, build your courage, and serve Christ right here at CedarCreek—check out Groups, GrowthTrack, Dream Team, Bible studies, etc.

Prayer:
Praise your name, Father God, the creator of all that was, is, and ever will be. How is it that you love us so much and long for us to come into fellowship with you for eternity?  My appreciation of your love is beyond description. Please help me to live a life that exemplifies that gratitude. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


This post was written by Martha Smith, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study. Martha describes herself as a lover of Christ who likes to share faith with others.


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“Crazy People” – Irresistibly Free

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2 Corinthians 5:13
If it seems we are crazy, it is to bring glory to God. And if we are in our right minds, it is for your benefit.

I absolutely love the first sentence of this verse. It brings to mind a song by Casting Crowns called “Crazy People.” It’s about how if we saw someone today doing what our biblical heroes did, we might think they were crazy. Then it explains how the world needs more “crazy people” trusting Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15
Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

So, what does this mean? Once we admit we are sinners, believe Jesus died for our sins, and accept him into our lives, our old way of life is dead—and through Christ’s love we are given the Holy Spirit to help us live out an adventure with him. If we live for him instead of ourselves, we naturally put others first and demonstrate unconditional love to whomever we encounter.

To be honest, I find this difficult at times. This world has some not-so-nice people in it, and every once in a while, I encounter one. Or it might not be a person at all—sometimes a stressful situation causes me to lash out at those around me, even when they haven’t done anything wrong. There are many reasons why we may not treat others as Jesus would have us to, but through the help of the Holy Spirit, we have the power to change how we react when faced with abrasive people or stressful situations.

Can you imagine the freedom you would feel if you could accomplish this daily? To me, it seems like a good way to be irresistibly free.

Can you imagine the reaction of others when, no matter what happens, we patiently show love and compassion toward them? They might think we’re crazy.

“Crazy People” by Casting Crowns

Crazy people trust in Jesus

Following him wherever he leads us

Kingdom seekers, walk by faith believers

Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, here’s to all God’s crazy people

Well, I believe this world needs more crazy people! Will you be one of them?

Questions:
Do you have that crazy kind of love for others that Jesus did?

How do you react when faced with a not-so-nice person or stressful situation?

Next Steps:
When faced with a trying person or situation, take time to pray and ask God for his help before you react.

Make a commitment to show true unconditional love to everyone you meet each day.

Listen to “Crazy People” by Casting Crowns. (It is one of my favorite faith-based songs.)

Prayer:
Father in heaven, I admit I am sometimes weak when it comes to treating everyone I meet with love and kindness. Help me to draw on the power of the Holy Spirit to show everyone compassion in every situation. Bless me with the freedom of being one of those “crazy people” trusting in you and following where you lead me. In Jesus’ name, amen.


This post was written by Ned Miller. Ned loves serving through writing on the LIO team, prayer team, group leader and as a greeter. He loves spending time with his family and working on his model railroad.


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