This devotional message was delivered at The Salvation Army Kirkland Lake Community Church just after New Year’s 2011. Yet, the message that we as members of the body of Christ are called by God to be living letters of life to the whosoever is timeless.
Living Letters of Life
Christmas is over. Breathe a deep sigh of relief. We all need to. Christmas brings its own stress. Did I get just the right gift for everyone? Was the Christmas dinner perfect? Did we spend enough time with our family?
We see fantasy Christmases on TV and in movies. When our Christmas doesn’t live up to those images, we are disappointed, sometimes deeply disappointed. The insane emphasis on the perfect gift, the perfect dinner, the perfect party, the perfect everything, steals both joy and meaning from the whole holiday. If you are poor as well, the pain that not being able to provide your family with presents even middle class families have can be gut-wrenching.
When I was doing kettles with my wife, Karen, we saw anxiety bordering on panic in people’s eyes. The lists in their heads were consuming them. Did I get all the groceries I need? Did I remember to get a gift for everybody? Who can I NOT buy for without insulting them? If I get a turkey and some special treats for Christmas, can I stretch my money until the end of January?
As my wife and I stood by the kettles and sang songs about a God who loves us enough to be born as a vulnerable little baby, we asked ourselves these questions. Are we shining the light of Christ’s love to everyone we meet? What message are we sending out through the expressions on our faces?
The apostle, Paul, wanted to encourage and challenge the Christians at Corinth. He knew that Christ’s desire was that
HIS FOLLOWERS WOULD BE LIVING LETTERS OF LIFE.
In 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, Paul writes:
“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, read and known by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts”(NIV).
Paul was teaching fellow Christians that they were the only gospel many would ever read. In their speech and character those who did not believe in God would see Christ living within their hearts. Notice that in 2 Corinthians 3:2 Paul writes that this letter of life in Christ would be read and known by everybody. In the next verse, Paul says that the Christians he was teaching needed to show that they are Christ’s own. How were they to do that? Later in the verse, we are given the answer. The Spirit of the living God was to be written upon their hearts.
What letter are people reading in us? Are we as Christians shining Christ’s light? If Christians are the only gospel many will ever read, do our lives shine light or darkness?
Many of you are familiar with the character of Ebeneezer Scrooge. He is the miserly businessman who is the central character of A Christmas Carol written by Charles Dickens. Dickens describes Scrooge as “…a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!”
Scrooge was embittered by life. His father’s failure to love him caused him to have little concern for the welfare of others. His sister, Fran, died giving birth to his nephew. Scrooge blamed his nephew for Fran’s death. His fiancee ,Belle, wanted to know if he would have asked her to marry him now if they were not already engaged. Scrooge could not respond that he would have because the golden idol of money had replaced her in his heart.
Scrooge was visited by the spirits of Christmas past, present and future They challenged him to love people rather than things. They taught him the reason Jesus was born. He saw the difference that reason makes in a person’s life.
As we enter 2011, let us all ask ourselves this question. Is there any of Scrooge in you? Perhaps, there is bitterness within your heart towards someone you know quite well. This anger and rage seething within you kills your spirit like cancer kills your body. It also robs you of the joy Christ wants to give you. Life may have been cruel to you. You put up emotional walls around yourself so you will not be hurt. You become miserly in showing Christ’s love to others. It just hurts too much to put your emotional barriers down and let in anyone including God. It’s too dangerous. It’s too risky. You’ll just be hurt again. You can’t endure another wound.
If we are to truly to be shining lights of hope to the hopeless, we need to trust that God can heal our woundedness. We need to reach out to Him in faith. We need to trust Him as Paul and Scrooge did. We need to allow God to shine His light through us so that we can endure and be victorious in the daily struggles of life.
God wants to change the darkness within you into light. He wants to give you hope. He wants to give you a peace unlike you have ever known before. Will you dare to let God in? Will His love live within your heart? Will you be a living letter of life? It is my prayer that God will show you the answers in your heart as you ask yourself these questions.