Contagious Carriers

It was the summer before my freshman year in high school when I began to notice change in my small town. There was story after story about person after person discovering Jesus Christ to be real. I saw life after life change—the hard-hearted now showing God’s love, the cynical teeming with hope and released to joy. And I wanted that. I wanted the peace that she had. I wanted the joy that he had. I wanted the assurance that they had. It would be years before I, too, placed my trust in Jesus, but it was these people’s undeniable experience and the irrefutable evidence of lives changed that sent me searching in earnest.

Peter urges us, “In your hearts, revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15). For most of us, it was love and joy shining through another that stirred our hope from its slumber and the word of God that woke our spirit to a new, never-ending day in Christ Jesus. Yet sometimes we let Peter’s call to defend our hope put us on the defensive. We feel inept to answer myriad questions arising out of a naturalist worldview or a relativistic culture, so we either consume ourselves in endless study, or we muzzle our hope and keep it to ourselves. But while it is helpful to grow in our ability to address people’s faith obstacles (answers do exist), we need to remember it is the truth of the gospel and its evidence through changed lives that reaches into searching souls and resonates in seeking hearts.

Using a lion as a metaphor for the word of God, 19th-century preacher Charles Spurgeon said, “Open the door and let the lion out; he will take care of himself.” We can say the same for our testimony: Open the door and let your new life shine; it will take care of itself. For Christ is contagious, and He is as real as the need in those who seek Him.

Father, you have given us new life. Send us in the truth of the gospel and the love of Christ, that your Spirit would shine through us as He has shone before us. May lives be reborn because you used your people. In Christ we pray. Amen.

Christ in me is confidence.

Godliness in Peoria

“Will it play in Peoria?” This uniquely American idiom recognizes a new act, event or product may or may not appeal across a broad populace. For one reason or another, many well-conceived ideas fizzle in Anytown, USA. So, let’s ask ourselves, “Will ‘Godliness’ play in Peoria today?” More to the point, does this character trait remain relevant in our culture? It depends…

Is this godliness we speak of merely an “act” in which we try to appear different than we are? Is this the kind that lives life “on stage,” visible yet safely separated from an onlooking humanity? Are we forcing stilted, rehearsed lines when real life calls for an engaging ad lib? If this is the godliness we present, we play to an empty theatre and an audience of one.

True godliness is not a staged performance of our production, but the genuine outcome of inspired transformation. It is the welcomed work of the Holy Spirit in the life of one awakened to the truth that God is real—that He is who He says He is, His promises are true, and His love immeasurable. We applaud His ways, so much better than ours, and we choose them. The thoughts from His heights stir in our depths, and we cheer with changed lives. He develops our character, not instantaneously, but over time; not forcibly, but naturally, through the power of His Spirit. We change, we grow, and it shows.

Now, some may pan devotion to God; in fact, the apostle Paul promises, “All who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”1 Such is the price of our passion. But people know “real” when they see it, and for many, true godliness—a life given to God in joy over His life given for us—is the evidence of hope to a “standing room only” crowd desperately searching for it.

Is godliness relevant today? Do you see the lights flickering for an encore?

Father, our world needs you, and we know it. Grace us, your people, to leave our ways behind and to walk in yours, so that others will see the light of Christ and find new life in Him. In His name we pray. Amen.

1 2 Timothy 3:12

Insert Your Name Here

How many times have we witnessed this scenario? A colleague or acquaintance is well thought of as a highly ethical person, a Christian perhaps, a living example of “do the right thing.” Then one day our model citizen slips on a moral banana peel, speaking ill of someone behind their back, for instance, or playing the nasty political card at work. Then invariably, someone—could be us—says this: “Now we know the real [insert name here].” Despite all the goodwill they have amassed through right decisions, we regard their wrong as the sole determinant of their true self.

Why do we seize upon people’s mistakes like this? Why do we discard in an instant the good reputation painstakingly built over the course of a lifetime? Is it that we think ourselves more attractive beside a morally blemished neighbor? Does our pronouncement arise from a deep sense of cynicism, our hope for good shattered yet again? It could be a lot of things, I suppose, for we all yearn for a rightness we can trust, elusive though it seems.

We do well to know what is right and to want what is right, but it is not ours to judge the wrongs of others. This is God’s job, and His alone. Moreover, we cannot muster from within ourselves the righteousness we crave; this, too, is God’s job, for Christ has taken our sin upon Himself and given us, in exchange, His own righteousness.1 This is His gift to all who receive it through faith.

Then to anyone who would define God’s people by the sins Jesus already died to forgive, He says this on our behalf: “Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light. . . He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.”2

If you are in Christ, then insert your name here, for He defines the real you.

Father, in truth you see my darkness, and in love you’ve become my light. By your sacrifice, I know your righteousness. Fill me to overflowing in grace, so others may know it, too. In Jesus’ name and by the power of your Spirit, I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is righteousness.

1 2 Corinthians 5:21
2 Micah 7:8, 9