Our cell phones are becoming like Swiss Army knives. You can talk, text, search for answers, use as your Bible, play music, take pictures and record videos. They do all of that, yet one of the things I’m most thankful for is that someone figured out that you can turn the camera’s flash into a flashlight. I’m getting to the age where I have to use my phone’s flashlight to read the menu in a nice restaurant or walk through a dimly lit place. I never thought I would use the flashlight as much as I do, but having a readily accessible light whenever I need it comes in quite handy. There’s more times than I can count that I’ve needed it’s light to help me see a message or to help me get where I’m going.
I don’t know if Jesus would have used a cell phone as His example if He were to give the Sermon on the Mount today, but it’s possible. As He stood on a hill beside the Sea of Galilee teaching the people, I’m sure He looked out across it and saw little towns on the sides of the other hills as He said, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:14-15 NLT). Are you and I lighting the way for others to find God? Do our lives give enough light for them to see His message written on our hearts?
When Jesus gave this sermon, the lights in these cities He was pointing at came from lamps that held oil. I was given one on my last trip to Israel. I came home, put oil in it and lit the wick. They give off decent light, but I’ve found that you have to keep filling it with oil if you want it to keep working. You and I can’t be the light He’s called us to be unless we are continually refilling our lives with the oil of His presence and His Word. The power of the light doesn’t come from the clay lamp, but the oil. In the same way, our flesh is simply the holder of the oil, but we must be on fire for Him and continually do the things that puts oil in our lamps. There is a world full of people stumbling around in the darkness who are depending on you and me to be the light God has called us to be. Make sure you’re living for Him in the open where all can see.
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
In Mark 4, Jesus and the disciples got in a boat and headed for shore on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. On the way, Jesus took a nap to recover from ministering all day. While they were somewhere in the middle, a storm arose and threatened to sink the ship. The disciples woke Jesus up because they were afraid they’d capsize. Jesus then rebuked the winds and waves and the storm calmed down. That’s pretty cool, but it’s the rest of the story I want to look at today.
They later arrived in the town they were headed to. A madman came running to Jesus, bowed down, but then the legion of demons in him took over. Jesus cast them out into a heard of pigs, who then ran off a cliff and drowned. The man, in his right mind, then asked to follow Jesus, but was turned down. In Mark 5:19, Jesus said, “Go home to your own people. Tell them your story—what the Master did, how he had mercy on you” (MSG).
I love the fact that Jesus crossed over the Sea just God this one man. He knew where He was going and what He needed to do. The storm arose to try to stop Him, but His love compelled Him to calm the storm and keep going. Then, once the man was free, Jesus sent him out to tell his story. There’s no telling how many became believers because of this man’s obedience to tell others how he’d been set free.
If you’re a believer, you’ve been set free and have a story to tell. Only you can tell that story with the greatest impact. You have friends and family that need to hear it so they can find their salvation. Our mission is not to quietly follow Jesus. It’s to go to those we know and have a relationship with (your own people), and to tell our story. You may encounter storms that try to stop you, but keep going. Eternity hangs in the balance for them, and your story could be what they need to hear to find salvation.
One of the things I firmly believe is that changed lives change lives. The greater work that God does in someone’s life, the greater the desire is to tell others. In Luke 7, Jesus was eating at the house of a religious leader. A woman in town, who had lived a sinful life, heard that Jesus was there. She grabbed an alabaster jar of oil and went to see Him. When she came into the house, she began to weep. She then bowed at His feet and wiped the tears off of them with her hair. She then poured the perfume on them as everyone in the house just watched.
The religious leader began to doubt who Jesus was. Luke 7:39 says, “When the Pharisee saw this, he said to himself, ‘If this man really were a prophet, he would know who this woman is who is touching him; he would know what kind of sinful life she lives!’” (GNB). Jesus spoke up and offered a situation to him. He told of two men who owed the same person money. One person owed 500 and the other 50. Neither had the ability to pay off their debt. The debtor forgave both debts. Then Jesus asked, “Which one, then, will love him more?”
Jesus’ point was that those who are forgiven of more sins, love Him more. Those who experience a greater change in their lives show more gratitude. They had a bigger debt that was canceled than those who were raised in church and never lived a life full of sin. Both types of lives are changed when they receive Jesus as their savior and both have an obligation from that point on to help lead others to the One who can change lives. He more change we experience at salvation, the more we are compelled by love to help others.
To demonstrate this, Jesus then showed a comparison between this woman’s actions and the religious leader’s actions. He told how the religious leader hasn’t provided water to wash Jesus’ feet, but this woman hasn’t stopped washing them with her tears. He also didn’t greet Jesus with a kiss, and this woman hasn’t stopped kissing Him. Then in Luke 7:47, Jesus said, “I tell you, then, the great love she has shown proves that her many sins have been forgiven. But whoever has been forgiven little shows only a little love.”
The greater the change God makes in your life, the more natural it is for you to want to change other’s lives. The great news is that if you’re a Christian, God has changed your life and you have the ability to now tell others what God has done for you. When you share your story of redemption with others, you open the door for their life to be changed. The more lives that are changed by God’s love, the more people we will have out there changing other people lives. The cycle of change starts with you and me.
If you’re like me, you have no shortage of friends who either take supplements or sell them. I have friends who take supplements to lose weight, to gain weight and muscle, to be healthier and to fight off infections. There are supplements for just about everything. My friends who take them talk about the benefits they receive constantly. They understand that to get the complete nutrition their body needs, they have to take these supplements. It’s not so different with our faith.
We constantly need to be giving our spirit nutrition through God’s Word, books that help us grow and godly fellowship. Peter understood that in order to grow our faith, we needed to supplement it. In II Peter 1:5-7 he said, “Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self control, and self control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.” That’s a lot of supplements.
I love how he said to supplement your faith with a generous provision. That means we shouldn’t hold back on these. We need to load up on them. I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use more of any of these. The first thing he said to add to our faith was moral excellence. One version of the Bible translated that as goodness. Be good to others. Show the love of Christ through your actions. The next was knowledge. I believe we are to be knowledgeable in the Word of God as well as other areas of life. In order to be a more effective witness for Christ, you have to be more knowledgeable about what others believe and why.
The next one isn’t one many of us like to add. Self control is a tough pill to swallow. We expect it out of others, but rarely hold ourselves accountable for it. Having self control helps us to live more effective lives. He coupled self control with patient endurance. Those two work together. We need to be patient as God is working in our lives. It’s not easy and often it hurts, but the end result is beautiful. Don’t run from what God is doing. Exercise self control and patiently endure all that a God is doing. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is your faith.
Next, Peter said to supplement our faith with godliness. He saved the harder things for last I think. It’s important that we live godly lives so others can see a difference in how we live. A life with supplemented faith lives differently than a life of no faith. To that, he told us to add brotherly affection. Jesus said that the world would know us by our love for one another. It’s time we quit arguing with other believers on our differences and started finding the common ground we share. When we do that, we will begin to replace the arguments with brotherly affection.
Peter capped off all of this with an important one. The final thing in this list to supplement our faith with is love for everyone. We’ve got to find ways to demonstrate the love that Jesus showed those who didn’t agree with Him and put Him on the cross. He didn’t go to the cross yelling about how they were going to Hell. Instead, He was praying for their souls and offering to meet them in Paradise. We’ve got to find a way to show that kind of love to those who don’t agree with our faith or lifestyle. That’s how we will win them over. We get to that point by taking spiritual supplements.
There’s a story about a man named Pheidippides who lived in Greece in the fifth century. After fighting in a battle against the Persians, he ran from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce the outcome of the battle and that the Persians were headed there to attack. He burst into the assembly and shouted, “Victory!” Shortly thereafter, he collapsed and died. To honor what this man did, people now run about the same distance he did in Marathons. They push their bodies to run over 26 miles as fast as they can.
I’m reminded of the race that you and I are in. Paul told us in I Corinthians 9:24-26 that we need to run our race in order to win. He said that it’s for a temporary crown, but for an eternal one. He then finishes off by saying, “I run with purpose in every step.” Pheidippides ran with purpose as well. He knew that he had to get the message to Athens. He knew there would be trouble if he didn’t. I’m sure he was tired and sore from fighting all day in heavy armor, but he still ran. With every step, he thought about the message he had been given.
What about us? Are we running every step of our race thinking about the message we carry? There is no life too ordinary or too complicated that it is not our responsibility to carry and deliver His message. II Corinthians 4:7 says, “We carry this precious message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives.” Paul recognized that each one of us who have received Christ have this message in us. There’s no life to ordinary that you can’t share “Victory” with someone else. There are too many people who need to hear the Good News we carry for us to remain still and silent.
Eventually we will all get to the finish line. We will all have to stand before God and give an account of how we ran our race. Will the story your life tells be one where you kept the message bottled up and hidden or will it be one where you gave your all in this race so that others may know? If it’s the first of the two, the good news is that your race is not over. There is still time to run your race with purpose. There is still time for you to pick up the pace and to finish strong. When you get to the finish line, you want to be able to shout, “Victory!” And then be able to say like Paul did, “I’ve run hard right to the finish, believed all the way. All that’s left now is the shouting – God’s applause.”
Don’t get caught up in running for the applause of man. That’s the temporary crown that fades. The applause of God is what matters. The way to get the applause of God is to run this race for His glory, not our own. It’s to make His name known and not our own. This treasure that we have inside of us was meant to be shared. The message of Christ’s victory at the cross must be shouted in the assembly until all have heard. Until then, how can we rest? How can we live our lives without purpose? It’s why we were created. It is our purpose.