Study Guide: No Country

Sunday October 23, 2016 | Seth McCoy

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

Jesus calls us to be His ambassadors. Living as an ambassador of the Kingdom God instead of a citizen of the kingdom of the world requires an awareness and intentionality to not buy in to the “me first” culture of the world. Christians throughout history have usually migrated to one of two extremes in our relationship with the world. Either we withdraw and isolate ourselves from the culture to the point of irrelevance, or else we acquire as much power as possible in order to force or legislate Kingdom of God behavior in to the culture. Neither of these work, or are what we're called to. Instead we're called to a third way as an ambassador and missionary in a foreign land where we interact and show the people the Kingdom by how we live, love, and steward our talents and resources, and then invite others to join.

Extended Summary:

Last week we learned that Jesus is our one and only leader, king, and president, and as such deserves our full undivided devotion. The question tackled this week is how do we live in the world with a King who is not of this world. The world can be thought of as three different gears or systems that grind together to keep the whole thing turning: (1) Political, (2) Economic, & (3) Social. Jesus calls us to be ambassadors in this world, this system of grinding gears.

In the beginning we surrendered our authority in these realms over to Satan by our lack of trust in God as our leader and provider. This “me first” mentality has been plaguing humankind ever since. God’s people have tried to interact with the world in a few different ways. Upon seeing the evil that these world systems can create, some flee to isolation by withdrawing from the world around them hoping this separation will bring protection and purity. Although this may be good for a season to recharge one’s body, re-frame one’s mind, or reconnect one’s spirit with the true source of life, it doesn’t work as an on-going mode of relationship to the world because it lacks relationship. The other extreme many throughout history have gone to is acquiring power. The thought process goes that if we just got a Godly person in power, then we can force the world to fit the image of the Kingdom of God. The problem is, and has always been, that it’s not a matter of changing behavior. The Kingdom is about heart transformation.

Instead of these two extremes we’re called to be ambassadors of the Kingdom of God to the world. In Matthew 5 Jesus says we’re called to be a city on a hill where people will see our light and glorify God. Jesus as the ultimate truth, both God and man, showed us not only what God is like, but also the truth about what it is to be fully human. At the core of the gospel is the healing of relationships – our relationship with God, with ourselves, with others, and with the creation. The gospel deals a deathblow to the “me first” mentality that destroys these relationships. We don’t need isolation to heal, we need a city. Other human beings have played a central role in shaping our sin, so they also need to take part in our healing.

In Matthew 5 Jesus also calls us the salt of the Earth. Salt remains salty by keeping its purity and we are called to be a salty preservative in these grinding systems of the world in order to build and hold together relationships where they are falling apart. We are called to preserve. We go to the dark places and operate for healing. It is important to be wise and know that we will be attractive to some people because of the truth of our light, but persecution may come from others who have had their darkness exposed. Salt preserves, but it also stings.

A few important things to keep in mind when considering our call as ambassadors:

  1. Jesus says when we face persecutions, not if. We should expect our path to have serious pushback.
  2. Let’s make sure if people are insulting or persecuting us it’s actually because of our faithfulness to the way of Christ, and not just because we’re being judgmental or annoying.
  3. We should rejoice in our persecutions because it’s evidence that the “me first” mentality is being killed away.

The final question to consider is how to know where you’re supposed to be an ambassador at, or where your slice of the Kingdom to serve in is. We must be smart because it can become just as likely for us as missionaries to lose our saltiness as it is to bring others in to the Kingdom. We must delineate the areas our faith is strong and where it is weak so we’ll know what areas we can serve. We need to know what level of darkness we’re dealing with and what level we can handle to make a wise decision about where to serve.

Reflection Questions:

  1. Were there any sections of scripture discussed that need more clarification? What parts did you not understand?
  2. Were any of the principles or new ideas that were challenging to how you’ve viewed your citizenship and national identity?
  3. How did they confront your currently held views?
  4. What did you think about Seth’s distinction on being smart about the areas of darkness we are ambassadors in? In what ways are we to be smart in this process? How do we do that?
  5. Take some quiet time and ask the Spirit to direct your thoughts and ask if there is an area of darkness that you have access to that God is calling you to play a more active role in being an ambassador of the Kingdom. What is a first step in that direction you can take?