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.
Ephesians 4:1-6 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Have you ever heard a statement like this? – “Jesus and the ideas he talked about sound great, I’m just not so sure about all these Christians.” Ours is a world desperately seeking Truth. Take any social context or issue (marriage, family, crime rates, teenagers being prescribed drugs so they can feel “normal”) and the broken human condition is clear. Any honest search for Truth can only lead to the reality of Jesus, but those who search are often confused by their experience with Christians.
My purpose is not to lay guilt on anyone, but to illustrate the depth of our position, and the purpose of Paul’s writing in Ephesians. He starts by saying, “therefore,” a reference to his earlier point, namely, that Gentiles are equal heirs in the promise of Christ. From this radical statement that surely shocked his audience, Paul then says in 4:1 that the Church is supposed to be a picture of this all-encompassing love.
We are to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling” and act with “all humility and gentleness.” When people enter our sphere as co-workers, friends, or neighbors, this is the picture we ought to project. And it’s not a matter of performance, either. Down to the deepest fiber of our being, we need to understand that Jesus chose his Church to represent Him. There is no plan B. Furthermore, the picture we are painting with our lives is one that the world longs to see!
This is not a spectator sport, ladies and gentlemen. Be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit” is no light statement. With diligence, we much each master our impulses , tempers, and die to our Selves a thousand times in order that when others see us interact in congregations, in our homes, and in our different social circles, the cumulative thing they take away is Jesus. And it will require everything we have to give.
———- After paying close attention to what Paul is calling us to do as Christians, is there anything you need to change about the way you present yourself in front of others as you represent Christ?
*This devotion by Jeremy Bunge first appeared in January of 2011
Giving is good for spiritual health. We’ve discussed how not withholding finances and possessions can be a great exercise, but there’s more to be shared than just the tangible things of this life. We have something even greater and it just begs to be shared with others.
The gospel of Jesus Christ, that is, the good news that He lived a perfect life that we could never live, without sin, and paid the ultimate price by dying on a cross to pay for our sins, and that He rose again from the dead and now advocates for us even now on His throne, is not some mysterious secret to be kept. It’s the best story ever to be told and it must be told to all who will hear.
If we’re paying attention and really have our eyes open, we’ll see that there are potential opportunities to share this news all over. Withholding the gospel and keeping it for ourselves is not good for us spiritually. It makes us inwardly focused, which is not the purpose God intended for the gospel. It’s meant to be told, again and again and again.
If you’re flatlining spiritually and aren’t sure what’s wrong, take a self assessment and diagnose whether you’re sharing the Good News with others or keeping it bottled up within. If the answer is the latter, make it a point to ask God for a person to share His story with.
1 John 2:7-14 Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.I am writing to you, little children,because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.I am writing to you, fathers,because you know him who is from the beginning.I am writing to you, young men,because you have overcome the evil one.I write to you, children,because you know the Father.I write to you, fathers,because you know him who is from the beginning.I write to you, young men,because you are strong,and the word of God abides in you,and you have overcome the evil one.
What is this old commandment that’s a new commandment that’s really an old commandment? What does John refer to? He is speaking of the commandment given to him personally from Jesus himself. Love God and love others. What was given in the Old Testament as Law (Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18) was confirmed in the New Testament by Jesus as being relevant even after His coming (Matthew 22:34-40).
Notice John’s reference to darkness and light, just like how he speaks in his presentation of the Gospel (John 1:1-13). He’s presenting a contrast for us to realize that the world’s darkness can’t overcome the light of Jesus. When we obey the command to love God and love others, we shine a light in the darkness so bright that it can’t but be seen. It’s a shining city upon a hill, giving off a beacon of light for others to recognize.
When we love, we show God to the world. When we serve, we show them the character of Christ and glorify Him. When we obey, we do a great work of evangelism (Matthew 5:16).
1 John 1:1-4 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
The natural response to the joy we receive in Christ is to share it. How could we, knowing that we have experienced new life in the Son of God, keep that to ourselves? We should be overflowing with joy, ready to burst if we don’t share it.
John was among the apostles who walked with Jesus while He was here on this earth. He writes in his first letter to the churches in Asia Minor that he wants them to share in the fellowship he and others have with God through Christ. He proclaims all he witnessed with his own eyes, all he heard with his own ears, so that the joy of others might be made full. He’s not willing to keep it all to himself. What he was sharing was life.
Jesus is the Word of life and He made Himself known to mankind. John was there when Jesus was present in the flesh, God incarnate sharing life with other people. John knew that real life is in Jesus and in this he found his joy. He also knew that his joy would be made all the more complete if he told others about the Word. Notice his motive explained in verse 4, that “our” joy may be made complete.
Jesus is life. If you’ve experience new life in Him, share it with everyone around you, so that they will have joy AND so that your joy would be made more complete. If you haven’t experienced the life-giver, why not seek Him out? Find out what this life is that others are talking about. Ask God to reveal Jesus to you and make Him real to you. He will.
Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.
Facebook is an amazing reflection of the relationship between the voice in ones head, and voiced expressions. Statuses update regularly with statements about how old, or young, the cashier at the grocery thought that the writer was, a comment that someone’s boss made, and what someone’s teacher said about their child. Various surface interactions don’t often require our full attention, but at times, they consume our full attention and tend to leave us thinking about the exchange of conversation. Later, we facebook about it:
“I can’t believe I got carded at Publix…”
“My son’s teacher told me that I look tired- I must look terrible today!”
“The Walmart cashier asked me when I was due; the baby is 4 months old!”
Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.
What we say, although seemingly fleeting, often lasts much longer than we realize. I think that we can all relate to an unwelcome harsh word that sticks with us longer than we would like, or the blessing of an uplifting kind word that sticks with us for days, months or even years.
Words that we speak can give someone the discouragement necessary for them to give up on trusting God for something big.
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
In fact, planting something positive in someone’s life is one of the best ways that you can ever pay it forward. We don’t easily forget the kind things said to us, or on our behalf. The blessing of positive words can be life affirming and can arm a person with confidence and security needed to walk with God, even when it is scary or uncomfortable.
Be Kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle- Plato
Give someone a beautiful gift today by speaking positively into their life. Give somebody something wonderful to facebook about!
Luke 24:49 “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as My Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”
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.”
Those of us that know the Lord have an awesome source of power that we need to be sure doesn’t come unplugged.
The Holy Spirit takes care of us directly and he gifts us gifts so that we can do things that we couldn’t have imagined doing. (1Cor 12:11). Check out what he does for us:
- He is our Advocate that will always be with us (John 14:16).
- He will be there to lead us into truth, he will teach us and he will remind us of the things that Jesus already taught us (John 14:26).
It was not intended for me to follow Jesus commands without any help. I need to be sure that I am as powerful as I can be by staying in the word each day and praying for God’s direction in every detail of my life.
Ultimately, for as much control as we may give God in our lives, for as much as we may say that He leads us, in free will, we are defined not by faith but by the worth we place on it in the love that we have. For though it is our faith that ultimately saves us, it is love that “covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
Over the ages, considerable time has been spent debating how one truly becomes the most effective disciple of Christ, the way that one can most successfully use their faith. After all, it is James who reminds us that our faith, if it is without works, is dead. It holds not the power to save us because it has grown as stagnant, as hard and as hollow as our hearts. Our works, they represent the spirit and the soul of our faith. (James 4:14-26)
Let us consider that for a moment. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” You see, the soul and the body represent a special relationship with each other. Though one may be able to exist without the other, the body is ultimately created as a vessel for the soul, yet it is not the body that defines the soul, but rather the soul that gives its value to everything the body does, and is. Faith can exist without works, yet those works, much like the soul to the body, give faith its inherent value, its intrinsic worth in the most basic and fundamental of ways.
For faith then to hold substance it must be the vessel of our works, not only bearing its fruits but containing them, carrying them, and offering them as the means by which we edify, strengthen and uplift others. Faith, to hold significance, must be expressed by a life given in love to others. Without it, we can speak with tongues, we can seek to understand, to fathom the mysteries that surround a great and mighty God, and eloquence can drip from our mouths in defense of faith, yet it is the shell of what it must be because it gains nothing and offers less. (1 Corinthians 13:1-13)
How then do we love? How then do we serve as the effective disciple? This itself is easily answered by our blessed Savior Himself, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.… whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” (Matthew 25:31-46) It is to look at the world, to see the need around you with clear eyes, and, as Christ Jesus Himself had done, answer the call in patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.
Though the ultimate act of love was the sacrifice of that Lamb of God who took away the sins of world, that was one example of Christ’s love amongst so many as great as it was. His ministry, His life would be eventually defined by that singular act of love in service to us, and yet it was a road paved by every act of healing, each act of giving, and the meaning that was behind it. It was a path that was laid down by His rejection of evil, hatred, slander and bitterness as we are taught the new commandment: to love one another as Christ Himself loved us. (John 13:34-35)
In the end, nothing can save us short of the faith that we have. Yet it is the character and the nature of our faith that it is the God who judges the heart who holds a power over us. Consider rightly the Lord’s admonition to the prophet, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) Are we, as the disciples of a living God to define our own faith, and thereby seek to build our own vessels for it, ones that seek to hold faith but are cracked and broken, with the dwindling waters it holds stagnate? Or are we to pour forth living waters with fresh springs of the Lord that quench the longing thirst of the spirit and the soul?
Let your faith be a vessel for love and the works thereof. See the world as it is, a place in desperate need of healing and hope, and let the soul of your faith shine as the means of love for others. In this way we can be the effective disciple, the effective believer God and Christ intend for us to be through the power and the strength of the Spirit working through us.
Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,t as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
How can I lead someone to Christ through my witness? It’s intimidating to think about someone’s salvation hinging on whether or not they submit to Christ based on our testimony about Him. But when we focus on our part of it, we lose sight of the fact that it’s not up to us to convert souls. Our job is to witness for Christ, it’s the work of the Holy Spirit to get people to respond. We’re not ultimately responsible for the decision made.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power for salvation. It’s not in what we say, it’s in the power God has given through the work of Jesus on the cross that people are saved. Sometimes even if we mess up the message completely, a person will still respond to the gospel. It’s that powerful.
But we’re not off the hook in the work that needs to be done. Yes, salvation is found in the gospel and a person’s response to it, but they won’t hear the truth if we don’t present it. They can’t respond to the Good News if it isn’t delivered. Our lives are lived as a witness and our testimony is given so that people may know the gospel and all it means for their lives. The gospel is the power, but we’re the conduit by which that power gets plugged into souls.
2 Timothy 2:2 and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.
Your life is a sermon. Whether you want it to or not, the way you life exemplifies to others what God is all about based on how you seem to view Him. But there also comes a time when we must use words to share our faith with others. Our personal testimonies are a powerful witness to all God has done in our lives. But there’s more.
Not only should we share what God has done in and through us, we can and should share with others all that we’ve learned about Him. This might be through books or through the Bible itself, but it might also be what we’ve been taught through a mentor in the faith or a close friend who is a strong believer. Taking what you’ve learned and applying it is a huge part of walking in fellowship with God, but sharing it with others is a step in the direction of good fellowship with people.
Fellowship with God and fellowship with people are both products of sharing our faith and knowledge of God with those around us. We can be sure that God is all for us spreading the word about Him. We’re commissioned to go and make disciples in all the nations. Fulfilling this commission requires a great deal of witnessing, both through actions and through words.