Archive for July, 2008

Praise

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Let me just brag about my Savior today.

Praise God for His provision and grace!  We were given a gas clothes dryer today by some folks who have an electric one where they are now, so they didn’t need the gas one.  It’s 7 years old, but has been in storage for about half that time and looks to be in great condition.  We just need to get an adapter because the fitting on the dryer is a different size than the one on the gas line.

This is a direct answer to prayer.  Our old electric dryer has been dead for almost a year.  We’ve been hanging the clothes out to dry in good weather, but this summer has been so rainy that we’ve usually ended up hanging them in the house … which is a little awkward when company comes to visit.  Praise God for providing for this need!

Also, we found out yesterday that the Veteran’s Administration is going to be paying a very large hospital bill for my father.  This bill has been a burden to my parents for several months, as they have a very limited income and the bill represented about 5 months of that income.

It was a little disappointing that medicare did not cover it.  My father has worked and paid into the medicare system all his life, and the first time in almost 8 decades that he needed to use the system, they declined him because the paperwork said he was admitted for “observation” (after experiencing chest pains and breathing trouble), not treatment, for the four days that they kept him.

I understand now that this is one of the new quiet, behind-the-scenes ways that medicare and most insurance companies have come up with to cut their expenses (at our expense, of course).  Fewer benefits for the same, or higher, premiums.  But, in the case of medicare, it is unfair to those that have worked and paid into the system all their lives, only to be left hanging when they need to use the very system they funded.

The concern over this bill had greatly affected my father’s health, so we were all very excited to find out that the VA is covering it.  Praise God!  He is so good.

How God uses the little things

Monday, July 28th, 2008

Most people don’t know who Edward Kimball was, but he has a reward in heaven that is probably far greater than that of many of the great Christians we can name.

Kimball was the faithful Sunday School teacher who, in 1855, led D.L. Moody to the Lord. He later wrote of Moody,

I can truly say, and in saying it I magnify the infinite grace of God as bestowed upon him, that I have seen few persons whose minds were spiritually darker than was his when he came into my Sunday School class; and I think that the committee of the Mount Vernon Church seldom met an applicant for membership more unlikely ever to become a Christian of clear and decided views of Gospel truth, still less to fill any extended sphere of public usefulness.

Despite his initial perception, Kimball made it a point to witness to Moody, and the young man was saved. What a reward this faithful Sunday School teacher must have in heaven! I believe that Kimball shares in the “credit” for every soul Moody won during his long ministry.

But it doesn’t stop there.

The account below is from a book titled Joyful Giving by Don Sisk, published in 1992.

D.L. Moody became one of the greatest evangelists of all time.  They say of him that he took one continent on one hand and another continent in the other hand and brought both continents closer to God.  He was mightily used to win hundreds of thousands of people to the Lord.

Mr. Moody preached in many countries.  One day while he was preacing in London, a young man by the name of F.B. Meyer heard him.  Mr. Meyer’s soul was set on fire by the Spirit of God that day, and he became the great preacher and teacher that has meant so much to all of us.

On one of his trips to Chicago, Meyer met a young man by the name of Wilbur Chapman.  Mr. Chapman was influenced greatly by Mr. Meyer.  Chapman became a mighty evangelist for God.  He was one of the great preachers of his day.

One day in the city of Chicago, a young baseball player, along with some of his friends, decided to make sport of some of the workers of the Salvation Army.  These faithful Christians were having a street meeting, and the baseball players decided to have some fun.  But as they heard the singing and the testimonies of these Christians, one baseball player, Billy Sunday, became convinced that he was lost and on his way to Hell.  That night he went to the rescue mission and trusted Jesus Christ as his Saviour.  Wilbur Chapman later greatly influenced the life of Billy Sunday.

Mr. Sunday became a flaming evangelist.  Many people living today were saved under his ministry.  Billy Sunday one day preached in Charlotte, North Carolina, and there a young man by the name of Mordecai Ham was saved.

Mordecai Ham became God’s mouthpiece, preaching up and down the land, seeing thousands of souls saved.  Many people living today were saved under the ministry of Mordecai ham.  A great host of preachers were called under the ministry of this great man.

What the author does not mention is that in 1934 in meetings that Mordecai Ham was holding in Charlotte, NC, Billy Graham was saved.

Imagine the reward that belongs to that “unknown” Sunday School teacher who took the time to witness to one of the most unlikely candidates for God’s service he had ever seen.

I pray that we listen to the Holy Spirit ourselves, and be the witness He wants us to be, when He wants us to be. Perhaps God wants to raise up another D.L. Moody or Billy Sunday in our spiritual family tree.

On being a servant

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

 “Why, why won’t he come to visit me?”

Jimmy lay in a hospital bed, dying of congestive heart failure. He had been a member of a local church for three or four decades. Now, as an ailing old man, he wanted more than anything in the world to see his pastor come and visit him.

He knew that his time on earth was almost up. He knew time was short. Yet he had been in the hospital with a failing heart for several days, and his pastor had not been by to see him.

“I really wish he would come see me. He knows I’m here. Why won’t he come?”

I was in the same hospital room with Jimmy two days later as he drew his last breath. He was unconscious all that day, so I don’t know if his pastor ever came to visit him.

But, God impressed something on my heart that day that I will never forget.

When God calls us to be pastors, He calls us to be ministers. A pastor is a care-taker. A minister is a servant. He calls us to be the servants of His church – the foot-washers of His people.

Our purpose is to serve the flock. When a church member walks into church on Sunday morning, we should look at them and think in our hearts, “I am their servant.”

That’s a hard thing. Our pride intervenes and cries out, “but I must be their leader! That’s what God has called me to do!”

The best way to lead is to serve. Jump in and show them what it means to serve. Show them what Christ meant when He washed His disciples feet.

If we seek to be great, we shall be least of all in His Kingdom. But, if we seek to serve, to be the least, then we shall be greater.

We should not be too proud to plunge the church toilet; to get on our hands and knees and wash the floor; to help serve the food at a church dinner. By serving we are not only fulfilling God’s commandment and call on our life, but we are also providing an accurate role model for the Christians in the church.

If we model everything that the world expects from a “leader,” then that’s the model the folks in the church will try to emulate, and we’ll have all kinds of worldly “leaders” and no one to serve. But, if we model service, if we model the servant’s heart, then people will emulate that.

It’s ironic that the greatest leader is really the greatest servant – which is why one cannot learn to “lead” well until they have learned to serve well.

A mayor, a bureaucrat, a police officer, a town manager, a legislator, a judge – all are servants of the people in the worldly sense. They are our servants. We pay their salaries, we pay their health insurance, we give them their office, their car, their authority – everything is given to them by us in order for them to serve us. Many do it very well. They remember that, above all, they are servants, and they do a great job working for the public good. Others, however, get a little power, a little money, a little authority, and they become consumed with pride and lord over us instead of serving us; or, they seek solely to advance their own careers and fortunes instead of promoting the good of the people. They decide that they are better than us and, although they are nominally a “public servant”, there is not a servant’s thought in their whole mind.

Our nation suffers greatly because of public servants who have forgotten their calling.

Our churches suffer greatly because of pastors who have forgotten their calling.

When someone in the church is sick, we should visit them. Not just the ones who have a little money and influence, but all of them.

We should be ready to set aside our busy schedules to go and sit with a sick person, to spend an afternoon with a lonely person, to help a church member build a chicken coop, to counsel someone who is in crisis.

If our pastoral duties keep us too busy to do that for the members in our churches, then we need to start shedding some of those other, less important duties and get back to being a servant of the people.

Let the deacons be CEO, manage the money, and conduct the “business” side of church activity. That’s what they are there for: to handle the temporal things so that we can be about the eternal. Our first responsibility is to our calling as pastor and minister, as servant to God’s church.

Do we know for sure what the Word of God is?

Friday, July 25th, 2008

A couple days ago, a friend forwarded me an article written to discredit the KJV position. My friend is KJV, but his church is having a vote about removing the KJV standard from their church covenant, and it looks like the vote will succeed.

Someone had sent him the article to try to persuade him to drop his own KJV convictions. Well, he didn’t (and he won’t).

I was a little leery of reading the article at first, concerned that it may raise some new issues I hadn’t confronted before and therefore require me to spend time doing research myself. Surprisingly, there was nothing new in it.

In fact, the article itself was about four decades old, and much has been published in the interceding 30-40 years to rebuff the inaccurate assertions it made. It was alarming, though, that an article with that much error was still floating around the Internet and being used to tear down people’s faith.

Even more alarming, however, is that the foundational argument in the article was that we don’t really know what the Word of God is. In an attempt to discredit the Textus Receptus and the King James Version of the Bible, it begins by attempting to befuddle the reader with a pseudo-scholarly recitation of Greek manuscript names and dates, and reasons why certain ones are better than others, and none are perfect.

You know, if someone said to me that they believe that the NIV is the Word of God and they had a coherent, well-reasoned argument for that position, I’d respect them for that. I would disagree, but I would respect them.

But to take the position that we don’t really know what the Word of God is because there are hundreds of disagreeing Greek manuscripts, and therefore we need Greek scholars to choose the best wordings for us, is simply illogical.

Bible scholars pointing to this manuscript or that manuscript for evidence of their pet interpretations is so much like paleontologists pointing to this cheekbone or that tooth or that fossil as evidence of evolution.

Either God inspired and preserved His Word, or He didn’t. If someone takes the position that the Word of God has not been divinely inspired and preserved for today, then the only natural, logical conclusion of that argument is that God does not exist.

That was the most troubling thing about the article my friend forwarded to me. It established as the foundation of its argument that we don’t really know what God’s Word is. Oh, they said that we know for sure about 90% of the words based on manuscript evidence and textual criticism, and to them that was good enough.

But, 90% is not good enough for me. I need to know what 100% of God’s Word says, not 90%. I could not speak with any authority on any spiritual topic if I thought that 10% of my Bible could be wrong.

God is not 90% perfect. He is 100% perfect. The Bible is not 90% accurate. It is 100% accurate.

That’s why I could have respect for someone who came to me with another Bible version, saying it is the Word of God, and presenting a well-reasoned argument for it. I would disagree and try to dissuade them, but I would respect them, because at least their argument is based upon the premise that God does exist.

These folks who believe that Bible scholars have to reconstruct God’s Word for Him (because apparently God did such a poor job preserving it for us – isn’t God lucky to have these scholars to help Him!), are a completely different matter. If you follow their line of reasoning, the natural, logical conclusion is that God does not exist, since He obviously did not preserve His inspired Word for us.

If God exists, then He has preserved His Word. If we have no preserved Word, then there can be no God because if there were, He would have preserved His Word for us.

This Bible versions debate is a whole lot more significant than most folks realize. If we are to live for God, we need to have His Word in our hands. To say that we cannot know for sure what the Word of God is, is to deny the very existence of God.

To judge, or not to judge …

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

How many times have you heard someone gasp, “Oh! But, we’re not supposed to judge people!”

And, they point to Matthew 7:1 to justify their statement.

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Matthew 7:1-4

This is a favorite passage of worldly Christians who want to pretend that their sin is their sin and doesn’t effect anyone else.

Let’s take a look at the Scripture today to see what God is really saying in the Bible about judging.

The first thing we need to acknowledge is that the Bible is full of admonitions to judge.

  • beware evildoers” … How do we know who the evil doers are? We must judge people to determine if they are evil doers.
  • beware false teachers” … Who are the false teachers? That’s left up to our judgment.
  • but judge righteous judgment” … Here’s an outright commandment to judge.

And on, and on. You can hardly read a chapter of the Bible without coming across something that requires us to exercise judgment concerning ourselves, our fellow Christians, or the world.

In fact, Paul told the church at Corinth to kick out one of their members from the fellowship because of his lifestyle of sin. If we are not to fellowship with sinful Christians, then we must have to judge people to determine if we should fellowship with them or not.

One thing is obvious. If we accept Matthew 7:1 as it is commonly taught today, then the Bible is self-contradictory.

Now, all the time I hear people saying that the Bible is full of contradictions. I’ve been studying it for some 20 years and haven’t found one of those supposed contradictions yet. So, on this subject of “judging”, either we have discovered one of those illusive Bible contradictions, or our understanding of the Scripture is erroneous.

It helps to read one more verse in Matthew 7:1.

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:5

Based on verse 5, we learn that we are expected to “judge” our brothers and sisters. We are expected to help and support each other (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), to help each other deal with and get beyond sin. But, we must first attend to ourselves. We can’t do a good job at helping others with their sin (and we shouldn’t even try) if our own lives are filled with sin.

That would make Matthew 7:1-5 itself contradictory.

I will proceed on the assumption that Jesus Christ did not contradict himself.

The fact is that these verses are not self-contradictory. The problem is not with the Bible text, but with shallow Bible study.

Pull your Strong’s Concordance off the shelf. If you look up the word “judge” as it appears in Matthew 7:1 you’ll find that the greek behind that word is “kreeno”, meaning to judge, condemn, damn, etc. To get a better idea of its meaning, look at John 3:17:

For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
John 3:17

Look up that word “condemn” in your Strong’s, and you’ll find that it’s the exact same “kreeno” that is used in Matthew 7:1. And that’s the kind of judging God does not want us to do. He does not want us to condemn or damn our brothers and sisters, or even the unsaved. That’s not what Christ came for, and that’s not what he wants of us, either.

If we condemn another person, then we are much like the unjust servant who, being released from an overwhelming debt by his master, straightway had another servant locked up in prison for a $50 debt.

We’re all on a level playing field here. We are all condemned by our own actions and all deserve hell. We are going to Heaven based on someone else’s merit, not our own. Who are we to condemn one another?

God does not want us to judge in terms of being “judgmental”, but He does want us to exercise “good judgment.”

Parents, if a fellow pulled up in a black van with no license plates, had a beer in one hand and a joint of marijuana in the other, and said, “Hey, can your little girl come out and play?” — what would you say?

If we accept the common interpretation of Matthew 7:1, we’d be morally-bound to send our little girl off with this person. After all, who are we to judge them?

But, sending your little girl off with this person would be sin. It would be an example of very poor judgment indeed.

God asks us to judge well, to exercise “righteous judgment.” He doesn’t want us to be judgmental or condemning. Don’t think yourself to be somehow inherently better than that fellow in the van. In fact, you and he are very much alike and you yourself might be behind the wheel of that van had it not been for the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. Remember, it’s the Holy Spirit’s work – His accomplishment – not yours. You have nothing to boast about or to be proud of. Instead, rejoice and share your Savior with everyone you can.

We should examine our pastors and Bible teachers to determine if they are worthwhile to support and listen to.

We should examine the lives of brothers and sisters in Christ to determine what kind of relationship we should have with them. Are they immature and need you to help mentor them? Are they strong and growing Christians who can be your brother and supporter? Are they so exceptionally surrendered to God that it would behoove you to seek to be their student, to learn as much as possible from them, to let them be your mentor?

We should examine the lives of our children’s friends, and their friend’s parents, to determine if we want our children to be influenced by them.

We are to judge, judge, judge. To not judge is sin. But our judging needs to have the connotation of exercising good judgment, not of being judgmental. Being judgmental goes hand in hand with pride and vanity, and God hates those things.

Let’s go out now and do some righteous judging. Let’s begin with ourselves, so that we can become better vessels, better servants, more useful to God and to our brethren.

Will we be spared?

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Yesterday I wrote about the food shortage that is not at our doorstep, but already in the door and sitting at the kitchen table.

The smug say, “I don’t care. I’ll be raptured before it gets too bad.”

Who do we think we are? Millions of faithful Christians and their families throughout history have died in famines, persecutions, and war. Why do we think that we are immune to these things?

Because we’re American? This stiff-necked, rebellious, worldy, sin-filled nation with it’s stiff-necked, rebellious, worldy, sin-filled Christians is headed for difficulty and divine judgment unparalleled in modern times. I’m not talking about the Great Tribulation, I’m talking about old fashioned divine judgment.

Think we’re immune? Think again.

Read the Old Testament again. When Israel and Judah were judged for their infidelity and rebellion, the faithful and upright in their midst suffered loss, were carried away, died in famine and war, right along with the unjust and unfaithful. It was a national judgment.

Daniel stayed faithful, and God blessed him abundantly even in the face of loss. Ezekiel stayed faithful, and God blessed him. Others, like Jeremiah, continued to suffer hardship and persecution despite their faithfulness – but God made it up to them on the “other side”.

Are we so much better, by virtue of our nationality, than all of the just, faithful men and women who have died in famine, war, natural disaster, persecution, and hardship over the last 6,000 years? Why won’t those woes overtake us?

We’re not promised an easy life here. There is no promise that my family and I won’t starve to death in the coming famine, no matter how faithful we are. Our hope lies not in this world, but the next.

Let’s be ready, sober, and vigilant. There are things that we can do to prepare, and I do believe that God will bless the preparations of His faithful. A little preparation now will save a lot of difficulty down the road.

What does God want you to do today?

Food shortage

Wednesday, July 16th, 2008

It’s been a long time since the USA has been significantly effected by any food shortage, but we are in the throes of a shortage right now that threatens to impact not only our own middle and lower classes, but populations world wide.

Is this in preparation for the “black horse” of Revelation 6? Is it just part of the trials we will experience during these “birth pangs” of the last days? Only God knows, but time will reveal it all to us.

A few months ago, flour almost doubled in price at the supermarket during one week. This was due to a wheat shortage caused mainly by farmers planting other, more profitable crops. For instance, many leading wheat producers this spring plowed under portions of their wheat crops to over plant with corn, which they can sell for ethanol production and make more money than with the wheat.

Corn itself is in short supply.  More corn growers are planting varieties suitable for ethanol manufacture and for burning as fuel in corn stoves.  In addition, thousands of acres of corn crop were devastated by the Midwest flooding this summer.

Corn, of course, is the basic ingredient in almost all livestock feeds, which means that meats will see another jump in price once (probably even before) this year’s corn harvest is in.  Demand for meat is also up, as the burgeoning middle class in China and India are adding more meats to their diet, following their Western counterparts.

Rice, the staple food for most of the world’s population, also has supply difficulties.  Because of successive years of poor harvests.  Rice imported into the USA has tripled in price since April of last year.  Some rice-producing nations in Asia have put strict limits on how much rice can be exported, in order to be sure they have enough to feed their own populations.

Couple all of these problems with the “coincidental” issues like the decline in bee populations.  Commercial apiaries haul their hives from field to field to pollinate the crops.  Because of the vast sizes of fields on the modern industrial farm, and the years of pesticide applied to those fields, there are little or no natural insect populations present to pollinate the crops.  Without pollination, there are no fruits or vegetables.

However, in the last two years the beekeepers have seen their bee populations decline by 20% to 30% each year due to a new phenomenon they call “colony collapse disorder.”  Bees simply fly off, abandoning their hive and queen, and die.  They don’t know what causes it, and it is going to take years of study and experimentation to figure it out.

The food shortage has already had some dramatic effects in other parts of the world.

A few weeks ago Fox News reported that residents in some Haitian towns are now eating what amounts to mud pies.  They are made by mixing dirt, water, some butter, and a little salt for flavor, then forming them into patties and letting them cure in the sun for a few hours.  Food prices have climbed so high in Haiti that the average working family can only afford to buy about half the food they could by last year.

There have already been food riots in some third-world cities.  You see, if you pinch someone’s gas supply, they will just get angry.  If you pinch their food supply, they get violent.

President Bush recently approved a wildly expensive food aid package targetting the world’s poorer nations, and the U.N. is scrambling for billions of more dollars.  They understand that food shortages lead to unrest, which leads to instability and war (and rumors of war…).

Even those food items that have not been impacted by shortages are rising in price.  Day by day it gets more expensive to truck vegetables and fruit from Mexico and South America because of rising gas prices.

“Good!” you might say.  “We can grow it ourselves.”  Except, we can’t.  In 1990 the State of Maine (up here where I am) was 60% more forested than it was in 1960.  This was because family farmland was being abandoned to the forest.  The younger generation lost interest in farming because food was so cheap and easy to get, so the fields that had been cleared through the hard labor and sacrifice of our ancestors were left to be consumed again by the forests from which they were carved.  It’s amazing today to be walking deep in the woods and come across the stone walls that used to mark the boundaries of farmer’s fields.

It would take years, maybe a couple decades, for the fields in this state alone to be cleared again and made suitable for farming.  Assuming gas continues to rise in price, it would also be very expensive to clear these fields using modern machinery.

The fertility of our farmland is also decreasing because of the years or chemical fertilizer, pesticide, and herbicide use.  Some farmland today can now only grow food using chemical fertilizer.  The soil is dead.  In the Midwest farm belt, where there used to be 18 inches or more of deep, rich topsoil, enabling us to become the “bread basket of the world”, there is now six or less inches of weak, emmaciated soil.

We can’t feed our own people anymore.   We no longer have that capability.

Our nation is entering a period in time that will be rivaled only by the Great Depression in severity.  Food is becoming more and more scarce and expensive.  Is is coincidence, or is it a divine judgment on our nation?

How could we think that our rebellious, sinful, worldy, self-indulgent nation, with its rebellious, sinful, worldly, self-indulgent Christians, could escape God’s judgment?

Had we stuck to the Old Paths, and been faithful to His Word, we might have seen many more generations of prosperity in this country.  But the prosperity God sent led to apathy, then  rebellion, toward Him.  Rebellion led to selfishness, then self-indulgence.  And look at where we are now.

“Letters of Commendation”

Monday, July 14th, 2008

I remember how obsessed President Clinton was with defining some sort of legacy for himself during his last couple years in office. He was determined to achieve something to be remembered by. Of course, he had a legacy already, and no matter how much he tried to undo it, we remember him today for his women and his compulsive lying, not any political achievement.

People know us by our fruit.

The Apostle Paul had a legacy, but it was a much better one. Part of his legacy was the young church at Corinth, which God had used him to nurture, train, and grow.

Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you? Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men: Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
2 Corinthians 3:1-3

Paul said that the church at Corinth was a “letter of commendation” for him, written not with paper and ink but “in fleshy tables of the heart.”

In those days, as was typical until 30-40 years ago, if you went to a church you had never been to before, you were not accepted into membership without a letter from another church stating that you were a member in good standing there. Many traditional churches still, even today, have a policy of admission to membership “by letter or by baptism” — in other words, you can become a member by presenting a letter from your previous church, or by being saved and baptized.

This system helped to prevent people who were removed from membership of a church, such as the man Paul speaks about in I Corinthians, from simply going to another church for fellowship. As Christians grew in numbers and multiple churches grew up within the same city or town, it became easier for someone who was removed from fellowship on one church to simply “go across town” to another church and continue to live their life of sin. By requiring a “letter”, a church protected its members somewhat from this type of abuse, and against people who wanted to do them harm (Roman or Jewish spies, greedy con-men, etc.).

Paul asks the Corinthians if he needs to present them with a letter in order for he and his teaching to be accepted in their church. He answers his own question by stating that the church itself is his letter, written not in ink and paper or carved in stone, but written in flesh. They themselves were his witness and testimony – he had no further need for a “letter”.

Even today, people judge a tree by its fruit.

People judge a church by its members. When folks out in the world meet a church-goer, they can very quickly form an opinion about the church based on the member(s) they meet. For instance, they will decide if the church is friendly based on how friendly the member is. Many of the character attributes of the member(s) they encounter will be inputed to the church.

People will judge a college by its graduates. Even within church circles, a college is known by its fruit. If you meet a couple graduates of the same college, and they both have the same unbalance, the same weakness in doctrine, the same obsession with a particular doctrine or style, then you have a tendency to judge the college by those graduates you meet.

It’s sobering to realize that people judge Christ based on the Christians they meet.

When a person meets a Christian who is critical, hypocritical, noncommittal, ungraceful, brash, grumpy, judgmental, doctrinally weak, unfriendly, arrogant, or [fill in the blank], they will often judge Christianity and Christ based upon that Christian.

It’s even more sobering to realize that we, as individuals, may be the only Christ that someone sees. We may be the only “letter of commendation” that an unsaved person sees, and based on our actions and words they might judge whether or not they want to fellowship with Christ.

We may be the only testimony for Christ that our coworker sees. We may be the only “Christ” seen by our neighbor, friend, or family member.

In a day when we use the label “Christian” so casually, when Christians are so casual and lazy about their relationship with Jesus, it is so important for us to be sure that we show others an accurate picture of Christ.

This doesn’t mean we have to work harder to look like better people. It means we need to be more surrendered to Him, more rejecting of the flesh, in order that Christ himself might shine through more clearly.

Remember, we want people to see Him, not us. It won’t do us any good to try to polish ourselves up so that folks see how good we are. Instead, we need to show less of us, so that more of Him shows through.

We have His Holy Spirit within us. We can choose to either yield to His Spirit or to yield to our flesh. By choosing the Spirit, we enable Him to have more free rein in our life, which means that when people see us, they’ll be seeing more of Him, which will give them a clearer picture of Christ and a better testimony.

Yes, we can choose to yield to the flesh and give Christ a bad name among our acquaintances, but I don’t like to think about what that would lead to when we stand before the Judge. The words I most want to hear from the Judge are, “Well done thou good and faith servant….” After what Jesus has done for me, anything less would represent abject failure on my part. He has given me life eternal, so why shouldn’t I give him this temporal life?

If we have yielded to Christ, what will folks see when they look at us? I talked about the “fruit of the Spirit” last week, but we can also see some hints right here in the this same passage (II Corinthians 3).

Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.
2 Corinthians 3:6

If you have your Bible handy, read the verses around this, too. The Old Testament Law was a fleshy manifestation of a spiritual concept. It seems that our inclination is always to write laws and create standards so that we can, with eyes of flesh, see how close we are to God. We try to earn our way into God’s favor and Heaven by doing good works.

It just doesn’t work that way. Paul tells us elsewhere that the Old Testament Law was given as a “schoolmaster” specifically for the purpose of showing us that we can’t please God that way. After all, all our righteousness is as filthy rags in comparison to His glory.

Mankind has such a fixation with rules and laws, with presenting a form of godliness without the power. God wanted to show us, for all time, that this is not a fleshly battle that will be won by fleshy methods, such as abiding by the “letter of the law”, but it is a spiritual battle. The letter brings death, while the spirit brings life and power.

Paul uses the Old Testament Law as an example, but we needn’t stop there. We are so prone in our own churches to resort to a works-based religion. Works are something that can be seen and judged with our eyes of flesh, so our natural man inclines toward the letter of the law.

As James writes (James chapter 2), if the Spirit is really there, His fruit will be manifest in good works; but the opposite is not true – we cannot invoke the Spirit by doing good works. We can do all the good works we want, but that doesn’t mean the Spirit is present with it. It just makes us a good imitator.

Let’s finish by looking a little further down in II Corinthians 3.

Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
2 Corinthians 3:17

Where Christ is, there is liberty. If Jesus is in a church, there will be liberty in that church, not a spirit of domination and bondage.  If Christ is in a person, that person will be known for their grace and moderation (in the biblical sense of the word), not their law and judgment.

Let us yield more to God in order that more of Him might shine through us, making us better witnesses and testimonies of Him.  This is the first and greatest step we can take to winning souls for His kingdom.