Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
You and I have work to do. We’ve each been given a calling to fulfill, a mission to accomplish, and that requires our physical bodies. It’s our job, then, to maintain the vessel God will use.
One of my only hobbies is running obstacle course races. They range from about 3 miles to somewhere near 12 miles and there are any number of various obstacles to tackle along the way. Sometimes a course is fairly easy, other times I come home barely able to walk for two days. People always ask me why I put myself through that. My answer is twofold.
First, having a physical goal ahead of me motivates me to stay in shape, to get ready for the event. That’s about the only thing that gets me exercising sometimes. Secondly, I like to sign up for these challenges because they’re uncomfortable and outside the norm. I want to push myself physically to do things that I’m not sure I can actually do. I end up praying a whole lot while I’m running the course because I need all the help I can get. It reminds me that I’m dependent on my Creator to do anything. I believe that brings Him glory.
Now, let me wrap all this physical stuff in with the spiritual aspect we’ve talked about. I have a calling to love God more than anything else, giving my body as a living sacrifice. In order to carry out His purpose for me, which includes loving other people, serving them, and all other sorts of things that require a physical body, I’ve got to keep my body operational to the best of my ability.
My body is not my own. Your body is not your own. We’ve been bought with a price and now we’re to bring the Lord glory through our bodies. We can’t neglect the physical in exchange for the spiritual. They need each other.
How are you taking care of your temple? What do you need to do to improve?
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.
The most important commands we’re ever given by God are to love Him above all else and to love other people. This starts with loving our own fellow believers. By our love for “one another,” Jesus says, the world will know we’re His. We don’t always do real well at that, do we? Truth is, the outside world often sees the church as a bunch of bickering people who can’t get along.
It’s unfortunate that the people we call brothers and sisters in the family of God are often the ones who we’re least likely to get along with. It shouldn’t be this way. I submit to you that the leading cause of problems within the church is pride. If we’d put others’ needs before our own, we’d find a much healthier church with healthier individuals.
Pride eats away at the soul of a Christian, causing spiritual health to decline. We can’t get the other commands right if we can’t get the love part. No amount of prayer and Bible study is going to get us unstuck spiritually if we’re not willing to love.
Love is an absolutely essential element of the life of a believer. Without it, we’re flat and ineffective, not living out the calling God has given us.
1 Thessalonians 1:3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
As believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we’re all called to serve. We serve God by doing the things He’s planned for us, and we serve others as well. If we strive to keep the two greatest commands (Matthew 22:37-40), we’ll be doing a lot of serving.
To an outsider, it may seem like all Christians do is work their tails off. If we follow the Bible’s guidance to put others before ourselves (Philippians 2:3), do all of the “unto one another” things listed, and work “as though working for God and not for man” (Colossians 3:23), it could sure seem that way. The thing is, though, when you’re working for the Lord, it doesn’t feel like work at all.
The Apostle Paul knew this better than anyone. He poured out his life as an offering (2 Timothy 4:6) without complaint because he knew every sacrifice he could make for the Lord was worth it. It wasn’t just him either. Paul acknowledged the hard work and service of the people in the churches to whom he wrote. He reminded them that they were working out their faith and that they labored in love, as well as that they were showing their hope in Jesus Christ by doing what they did.
You’ll never know who’s being blessed by your service for the Lord. Your labor of love could be what brings someone to know Him. Keep up the hard work!
1 John 5:1-5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Our faith is the victory that has overcome the world. And what is it that comes from faith? Good works. A natural response to faith is obedience. When we know God and experience His love for us, we want to keep His commandments and follow everything He says to do. If we remain faithful in this, nothing can stop us.
This passage says that everyone who has been reborn overcomes the world. Are you overcoming the world? Have you taken the time to actually evaluate whether or not you’re overcoming the world? What does it even mean to overcome the world? Does that mean we don’t ever fall into temptation or that we don’t sin?
Sadly, most of us don’t think in terms of victory when we look at our lives. We’re not operating in our spiritual gifts or showing any fruit out of the faith we proclaim. Some of us aren’t even showing love to our fellow Christians, let alone to the people out in the world.
But we’ve been equipped. We’ve got the victory already if we’ll just do the next thing God calls us to do. That’s what obedience is. It’s not some lofty, unachievable goal. Obedience is doing the next thing God calls you to do. And when you’ve done it, do the next thing He calls you to do. Then the next. Obedience is a lot like walking. It’s one foot in front of the other.
Walk in victory, knowing that Jesus has already won the battle. The odds are in your favor. You can’t lose.
Ephesians 6:15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.
Over and over again, when the Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians about battling the enemy, he uses the word “stand.” Since the part of the body that we stand on is our feet, it’s best to pay attention to what he has to say about the armor of God that goes there.
What do you stand on in your Christian faith? Is it your church attendance? Your heritage of having a Christian family? The amount of Scriptures you’ve memorized? Maybe even your good deeds? These things are all good, but they’re not the foundation of following Christ and they’re not going to defeat Satan’s attacks.
There is one main thing around which everything else is revolves, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The truth of His death, burial, and resurrection is what we stand on. It’s what gives us peace and it’s what prepares us to fight off attacks. Stand firm on the gospel.
Romans 1:13 “I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that I planned many times to visit you, but I was prevented until now. I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit, just as I have seen among other Gentiles.”
It’s that time of the year for the farmer. He has plowed the land. He has prepped the soil by fertilizing it with nutrients. He has laid seeds and carefully watered his fields. He has watched his seeds sprout and grow into big, healthy plants. And now, after much hard work and great patience, it’s time for the harvest. He gazes over his field to find…none of his plants have produced any fruit?
That scenario seems silly doesn’t it? Minus a catastrophe, a farmer who has put a lot of hard work into planting a field expects to see fruit when the harvest comes. In the same way, when we invest our time and resources into others, we should expect to see the Lord do a work in peoples lives. Paul didn’t say I want to work among you and maybe I’ll see some of you grow. He said I want to work among you and see spiritual fruit. Why? Because he had seen the Lord work in these people before and expected Him to do it again.
Now, I know what you’re saying to yourself. I do invest in people at the church and I have seen people grow in their walk with Jesus. It’s worth pointing out here who Paul is speaking to. Paul is speaking to the Gentiles. A people group that was far from God and considered wretched and unclean. See where I’m going with this? Did you just get a little uncomfortable in your seat? Good, because I know I just did and I’m the one writing this devotional. While it is not only good, but it is actually God’s will for us to disciple the next generation, He has also called us to reach out to those who are far from Him. Those who are wretched and unclean, as we all once were. Those who are outside our church walls, and outside of our comfort zone for that matter.
We can’t choose one or the other. God is inviting us into His work, and His work involves both discipling and reaching the lost. Jesus said in Matthew 9:37 “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Will you work the fields today? Better yet, will you work the fields today expecting Jesus to do a miracle is someone’s life? I pray today that if anything has prevented you in the past from reaching out to someone, just as Paul was prevented from reaching out to the Romans, that God would give you the opportunity and the courage to be bold in His name.
Ephesians 4:11-12 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
When it comes to missions, every Christ-follower has been given one. The Great Commission given by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20 is for all of His people. Go and make disciples. This is the mission for every one of us.
We don’t all go about that mission in the same manner, however. We’ve each been given our own talents and abilities that best suit us to do certain tasks in the big plan. Some of us are better at certain things than others, but we’re all still called to make disciples.
An interesting bit mentioned by the Apostle Paul is that God gifted His people with some people in particular that He wants to lead and to train. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers are all set apart to equip the rest of the body for ministry. All are called, but some are chosen to build up the body through special assignments. What’s your job that fits into the mission of God?
Ephesians 3:7-13 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
We’ve all been given a ministry and the Lord has equipped us specifically for the role He’s given us. What’s your ministry? If you’re not sure, take an inventory of your circumstances, talents, abilities, resources, and even what burdens you.
The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the Ephesian church with his own specific burden. No one else quite cared the way Paul did about certain people or certain issues they faced. He had his own ministry that was no one else’s. You and I also have to live out our own calling, not one that belongs to someone else.
Just when you may object to the idea that you are a minister of any sort, look at Paul as an example. He not only calls himself the least of all the saints, but if you know anything about his history, you know he’s not exactly who one might have expected to be used in such a huge way to see people converted for Christ. If Paul’s the least of all the saints, the chief of sinners in his own eyes, how can you be any worse? You’ve received no less grace than Paul. Isn’t it time you had “boldness and access with confidence through [y]our faith in him?”
Philippians 2:17 “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”
If laying down your life meant that you could see people come to Christ, would you do it? And if so, would you be overjoyed to do so? When I read this scripture I think to myself, “I wish I could be as dedicated to the gospel as Paul was.” The truth is, as we walk with Jesus, He will transform us in the same way as Paul. The more we say yes to Jesus, the less we will care for the things of this world and the more we will treasure what is eternal. Even to the point of losing our lives.
I know as I think of my brothers in sisters in Christ who are making bold steps of faith, it makes me smile and overflow with joy. I would do anything to keep their paths straight and their spirits on fire. When I think of those who don’t know Jesus as their Lord and
Savior, it breaks my heart. I wish I could open their eyes to the truth and their hearts to the love of Christ. Jesus may not be asking you to lay down your life today, but he may be asking you to sacrifice yourself in some way to further someone else’s spiritual journey. As you spend some quiet time in prayer today, ask The Lord in what way you could be encouraging someone, no matter what the cost is.