June 30 (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)
Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. (NLT)
Ask someone who has been part of a drug intervention. It is usually not well received at first by the person who needs it. For that matter, consider a child’s reaction when her parents say it is bedtime or try to apply antiseptic to a knee scrape. That which is good and true, that which brings healing and restoration and life often meets with profound resistance, and the same is true when it comes to sharing the gospel of Jesus.
If things seem to be going well enough without God, do you really want to be told that appearances can be deceiving and that you need Him desperately? If your idea of God is comfortable, based on ideas cobbled together over a period of years, do you really want to confront His fullness and reality in a first century Jew named Jesus? If truth about God’s love requires a change in your life because He knows better than you what is best, do you really want to hear that?
We all struggle with listening to and accepting what God says to us. Some people have learned to put aside their preconceived notions in order to approach Him with a truly humble and receiving heart, but others have not, and you and I do not know who is who. It is our calling, just as it was Paul’s, to live lives that are a sweet fragrance to God, lives that will draw some toward Him and seem to drive others away. If what you say and do helps someone live in deeper relationship with God, then rejoice, for you have done well. If it makes others angry or causes the loss of friendships, by all means grieve, but do not change. You live to please God, not human beings, and you never know whether those people may one day come back to Him because of what they have experienced in you.
Jesus, You never once cared what others thought when it came to fulfilling Your calling. I want to be as strong as You. Give me the courage to live a life that is pleasing to You and one that can point others toward You. May I never back down from being Your servant, no matter how people react. Amen.
June 16 (Acts 1:21)
So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus. (NLT)
When our son was at an exploratory day for the university he was considering, we had lunch with other families and students from the school that offered the program he was interested in. We asked one of the students from that school, but not from his program, what she could tell us about the program. She had some vague knowledge, and none of it was encouraging. Later, our son and I met with a young man who had graduated from that same university with a degree in that program, and his story was completely different. He could not have been more enthusiastic about it, had lots of good information to share, and was more than happy to be an ongoing support for our son. What was the difference? He actually knew what he was talking about because he had experienced it.
When the disciples needed to pick a replacement for Judas, they knew that it had to be someone who had spent time with Jesus. It would not be enough for someone to know about Him. Whoever the replacement would be would have to have deep, authentic, personal knowledge, the kind that could only come from knowing Jesus directly.
After two thousand years nothing has changed. There are many scholars who can tell you about Jesus, and you certainly do not need to be a Christian to teach someone about the ancient Roman empire or the Hebrew culture in which Jesus lived. But if you want to know Jesus, you need to get around people who actually know Him, people who have walked with Him and heard His voice. And if you are one of those people who know Him personally, then you are desperately needed to share what you know. We live in the Information Age, and it has never been easier to find facts about anything and everything. What the world truly needs is for those like the first disciples, people who have walked and talked with Jesus, to share with enthusiasm what it means to live with Him.
Lord Jesus, open my lips that my mouth may not only declare Your praise but proclaim the truth about You to those who do not know You. Open my eyes to opportunities to share what it is like to live with You, my loving and matchless Lord. Amen.
Special Feature: Here is a clip from the classic sermon by Dr. S. M. Lockridge, “Do You Know Him?”
March 24 (2 Corinthians 4:13)
I believed, and so I spoke. (ESV)
In 1983 Billy Joel released his album An Innocent Man, which contained the #1 hit “Tell Her About It.” In one of the lines from that song, he sings, “Tell her about it. Tell her everything you feel. Give her every reason to accept that you’re for real.” Stay with me here, for there is something about our relationship with God that requires being told.
There are lots of nice people in the world, many of whom are not Christians. Simply doing kind things does not let anyone know about your relationship with God or who He really is. We must tell people about Him if they are going to believe for even one moment that we are for real when we say we follow Him. This does not mean dropping the name of Jesus every third word in a conversation, but it does mean sharing what you and He have done together, what He has done for you, and what you have learned about Him. After all, don’t you share those very things about family, friends, and your favorite sports and entertainment figures?
We must also tell people about our relationship with Jesus if we want Him to believe for one moment that we are for real when we say we follow Him. Can you imagine introducing your spouse to a friend only to have that person reply, “I didn’t even know you were married!” If that ever happened, you’d be sleeping on the couch that night.
Paul quotes these words from Psalm 116:10 to remind us that action is the natural, logical consequence of our belief. In fact, we could turn his words around. If we do not talk about Jesus, do we really believe in Him?
Lord, the enemy would have me keep my relationship with you a deep, dark secret. Instead, I will pray with David, “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” Amen.
February 17 (1 Thessalonians 2:19)
After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! (NLT)
Children love to show their parents what they have done. Whether it is a fantastic Lego creation or the finished page from a coloring book, they cannot wait to show it off. Teenagers are the same. They are so excited to tell their teacher or their coach that they got the scholarship or were accepted into the university of their dreams. For that matter, I can’t wait to show my wife when I have made something in the garage or fixed something around our house.
What will you be excited to show Jesus when He returns? What have you done with the life He gave you that you will be so happy to share with Him? For you do realize God did not just give you your life as a plaything, right? He has given you hundreds of thousands of hours and millions of minutes within which to use amazing abilities of thought and creativity and communication. What have you done with all that? What are you doing with it?
Paul said that the Thessalonians themselves were what he wanted to show Jesus. Paul could have been eager to show off the churches he had planted or the letters he had written that became books of the Bible, but what he was most proud of were the people who had come to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. He knew that this would please God most of all.
Lord, help me to take a careful look at all I have done and am doing with the time and gifts You have given me. I want the Holy Spirit to show me clearly where I have been using them well and where I have been wasting them. May all that I do, say, and think be pleasing and acceptable to You, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.