Boldly Sharing the Amazing Love of Christ

In addition to our monthly ministry outreach to the homeless at the men and women’s shelters downtown, I occasionally have the privilege of speaking at the Thursday morning devotional time at the Union Gospel Mission Dallas. The audience is a mix of staff, disciples, prospects, and clients. The time is always rewarding and a time of great blessing to me. It is always good to see God at work in and through the lives of the last, least, lost and lonely homeless population here in Dallas. The Union Gospel Mission began as a street ministry in 1949 when a group of Christian businessmen took to the streets of Dallas, telling the poor about God’s love for them. The Mission has continued to grow and prosper in the years since, reaching countless men and women for Christ, transforming thousands upon thousands of lives, and continuously shining the light of the Gospel downtown.

After lifting our voices in song and hearing a number of testimonies about how God is impacting the lives of all those present this morning, we opened God’s Word, examining and exploring the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 5.

2 Corinthians 5:1-21 (ESV)

5 For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, 3 if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. 4 For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil

11 Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience. 12 We are not commending ourselves to you again but giving you cause to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast about outward appearance and not about what is in the heart. 13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

We are born with a longing, a God-sized hole in our soul that only the Lord himself can satisfy. Paul assures us that the Lord is faithful, and that He has prepared for us an eternal home, free of the burdens of this world. Even though life is difficult, Paul exhorts us not to be dismayed, but to remain steadfast in our courage. Yes, we long to be with God. But until then, He has given us His Spirit to make the journey with us. We are not alone. He has not forgotten us. God has not forsaken us. To the contrary, He supplies us with everything we need to overcome the trials and tribulations we face. Through Jesus Christ, God has already won the victory for us. God gave His son, Jesus Christ, so that we might live in Christ, and Christ alone.

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Because of what God has done, we have a mission and a purpose. We proclaim the Gospel–the Good News—-and demonstrate the love of Christ, through our words and our deeds. Love, after all, is a verb. Love is an action. Often times, the only Good Book people will read is in how they see us live out the grace God has bestowed upon us. We are Christ’s, no doubt. He has bought us with His blood. He controls us. We cannot keep quiet about the grace and mercy he has showered down on us. We have to shout it from the tallest building. We must proclaim it from the highest mountain. The Good News of what Christ has done for us must travel as far as the East is from the West.

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We live for the one who died for us. We are new creations. Behold the old has passed away and the new has come. We are ambassadors for Christ Jesus and the Good News His crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection secured. In this generation, you and I may be the only Gospel anyone sees and hears. Shine brightly, speak boldly.

Continue to walk by faith, not by sight.

Amen.

 

Photos courtesy of the fine artists at Pixabay.com

A Real Holy War

 

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Ephesians 6:10-12 (ESV)

Faith and spirituality lie beyond the reach of our five senses. Our age of skepticism yields a dismissive attitude towards the notion of evil spirits. Sure, we love to dress up for Halloween and go to the movie theater to check out the latest horror movie to be scared out of our wits. But to us, it’s all make believe.

Demons aren’t real.

Scripture would tend to disagree with us. The Apostle Paul certainly would. During his time ministering in Ephesus, Paul encountered a great deal of demonic activity.

We may be reluctant to admit it but a real Holy War is going on all around us. The church battles to survive the attacks of the devil, demons, and malignant supernatural beings. Part of the war is being fought here among us, full of battles and enemies we can see. Yet another part of the war is being waged out of our line of sight, in the spiritual realm, between the angel armies of God and the demonic minions of the Devil. Yes, I know this may seem crazy to you. But it is true. As believers, we are at war with the Enemy who seeks to deceive, devour and destroy us.

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Throughout his letters, the Apostle Paul reminds us to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, to cloak ourselves in Him. We are to take extra measures to ensure that we leave no opening at our head, our feet our heart, our belly, our eye, our eye or our tongue. The Devil readily exploits any opportunity we provide. Scripture tells us that even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, to deceive us, devour us, and destroy us.

The problem with not naming your Enemy is that it lulls you into a false narrative that your Enemy isn’t real. Before you know it, you let your defenses down and leave your armor at home, oblivious to the battle raging all around you.

As Christians, we have to recognize that by our profession of faith, we have chosen sides. We have publicly declared we are on God’s team. It is in our interest to protect ourselves with the Armor of God and equip ourselves with weapons the Lord has provided us, like praise and prayer, the Bible, the blood of Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling in us, and the power of our Testimony.

While we may not readily see it, a spiritual war wages all around us. Are you prepared?

The Fruit of the Spirit: Love

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

In these verses, the Apostle Paul describes nine characteristics that all Christians exemplify in their walk as believers. I don’t know about you, but in my case, all the ingredients may be present, but the meal hasn’t finished cooking yet.

Love Joy Peace Patience

Kindness Goodness

Faithfulness Gentleness

Self-Control

The first virtue Paul mentions is the granddaddy of them all: Love.

As believers, we live under the law of grace, as the Mosaic Law was satisfied and fulfilled by the ministry and work of Christ. Love is the lead component of grace. Without love, Paul tells us, we have nothing. Love is the core ingredient from which all other blessings flow. When he was asked to name the greatest commandment, Jesus proclaimed that first, we are to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and secondly, we must love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Jesus even took it one step further by teaching us that we are to extend love to our enemies.

Because of His love for us, God initiates a relationship with us. Because of love, He pursues us.  God loved us so much so that He paid the price for the wages of our sin through the sacrifice of Christ, removing the obstacles separating us from Him. While sin nailed Christ to the Cross, it was love that kept Jesus there. Now, by placing our faith and trust in Christ, we can have access to God and know what it is to live abundantly in His presence.

Love built the bridge reconnecting us to God.

While we were yet sinners, love rescued us. Love has redeemed us. Love has saved us. It is love that sanctifies us and continues its work in us so that all of the other virtues bloom and shine from our soul. It is love that gives salt its saltiness. It is love that fuels the light.

How Deep The Father’s Love For Us

Prayer:

Father God, may your love grow in me so that people may see You shine through me.  Help me love You with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. Give me the ability to love others, friend or foe alike, with the fullness of love that You, Father, have shown me through your Son, Jesus Christ. Father God, may your Holy Spirit fuel love within me so that it radiates your Glory brightly.

Amen.

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