Worship Times

Sundays    10:30 a.m.
                    4:00 p.m.

Today's Verse


YOU ARE AN EPISTLE OF CHRIST

By Mark Grant

The story is told of four ministers discussing the pros and cons of various Bible translations and versions. Eventually each stated which version, in his opinion, is the best. The first minister said he used the King James because the Old English style is beautiful and produces the most reverent picture of the Holy Scriptures.. The second said he preferred the New American Standard Bible because he felt it comes nearer to the original Greek and Hebrew texts. The third minister said his favorite was the New King James Version because his congregation had new converts, and it was easier for them to understand the contemporary language. All three men waited while the fourth minister sat silently. Finally he said, “I guess when it comes to translations and editions of the Bible, I like my Dad’s translation best. He put the Word of God into practice every day. It was the most convincing translation I’ve ever seen.”

In second Corinthians the apostle Paul wrote, “You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:2-3). When other people look at you, what do they see? What image do you project to coworkers, customers, friends, neighbors, and believers? Do you ever give any thought as to how you are being perceived? Is your first concern about observers seeing Jesus in you? Paul made a great claim to the Corinthians for he said that they were “known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ.” Long ago Plato had said that a good teacher does not write his message in ink that will fade; he writes it upon men. That is exactly what Jesus had done. He had written his message on the Corinthians through his servant Paul, not with fading ink but with the Holy Spirit; not on tablets of stone as the old law was first written, but on the hearts of men.

There is a great truth here that should be an incentive, as well as a warning, to every believer for we are an open letter on behalf of Jesus Christ. Every Christian, whether he likes it or not, is a message (and messenger) for the good news of Christ.. The honor and glory of Christ is in the hands of his followers. Thus, when we meet others, they ought to see the light and glory of God living in us. In other words, they ought to see Jesus. Is that who people see when they look at us? Do they see Jesus’ love, integrity, and compassion? Or do we hide “the Light of the world” under a mask of selfish ambition and worldly concerns? I believe that the greatest handicap the Church has today is the substandard lives of professing Christians. When we go out into the world we have the awe-inspiring responsibility of being open letters, and epistles for Christ and His Church.

In Matthew 5:14-16 it was Jesus who taught, “You are the light of the world.. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” A light is first and foremost something that is meant to be seen. That is why Jesus commands every Christian to be what He Himself claimed to be. “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). Disciples of Christ are to be reflectors of the light that comes from the Lord. The radiance which shines from the Christian comes from the presence of Christ’s teachings within the Christian’s heart. So we become the lights of the world by the righteous lives we exhibit through following the truth that Jesus taught. Followers of Christ are to hold fast to the gospel by being lights of the gospel to the morally corrupt world in which they live. “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain” (Phil. 2:14-16).

Further, a Christian’s reflection of Christ should be perfectly visible to all mankind. Can you hide a city that is sitting on top of a mountain? Its light at night can be seen for miles. If we live for Christ, we will glow like lights, showing others what Christ is like in a world of darkness and sin. “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as Children of light” (Eph. 5:8). There is no such thing as secret discipleship within the Lord’s church. If we hide our light by becoming too much like the world, then we are lost in darkness. Christians should not blend in with everyone in this world. Instead, they should affect others positively, just as light shines out for all to see. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). Let us not turn-off (or hide) our lights by walking in darkness, but “let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13:12).

Likewise, Christian behavior is not to be modeled after worldly conduct, but is to be an imitator of God. “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Eph. 5:1,2). The context of these verses is connected with the previous chapter, where Paul had exhorted Christians to kindness and to a spirit of forgiveness (Eph. 4:31,32). And now entreats them to imitate God who is always kind and ready to forgive. Just as children imitate their parents, Christians should follow God’s example of tenderheartedness.. Love is to be the chief mark of the believer’s authenticity. And how much contention and strife would be avoided if it were followed! The apostle John wrote, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” (1 John 4:20-21).. If every Christian who is angry, unforgiving, and unkind, would just ask himself the question: “How do I want God to treat me?”, it could save all the turmoil and unrest that exists in many of the churches of Christ today. If God’s nature is love and Christians are His Children, then shouldn’t their conduct reflect God’s love to one another and to the world? It was Jesus who told His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). The most important thing in the church is not how much money we have in the treasury, or how many members we have, or how big our buildings are, but how we are related to one another in Christ. How are believers to preach the peace of God in Christ with integrity TO THE WORLD when there is not peace in Christ among the brethren? It is time for us as Christians to grow-up and be mature by getting rid of the malicious behavior and deceit and express our love, not in just words, but by our attitudes and actions as well. “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet. 2:1-3).

In conclusion, if Paul advised Christians who were even slaves to “adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things” (Tit. 2:10), shouldn’t Christians today strive to do the same? We who have named the name of Christ need to honestly ask ourselves, “What are unbelievers saying about me?” Today, we as Christians need to be conscious of the reproach brought upon the Lord’s cause by the inconsistent lives of His people. There is no argument as effective as a holy life! In short, we do not only need to speak the truth, we need to live the truth as well. When people look at us, they need to see genuine Christianity, not a lukewarm, accommodating lifestyle that stands for nothing. We need to make the gospel attractive in such a way that unbelievers will be drawn to the matchless “Light of the world.” For the only sermon that most people will ever see or read is the life that we live before them “as the epistle of Christ.”