I’ve heard and read some really good stories and sermons lately that are centered around the meaning of Christmas. Some have described what things must have been like for Mary and Joseph as they knelt in the smelly stable and beheld the infant Jesus that starry night. Others are wonderful reminders that the Holy Night at Bethlehem was only the beginning of what would be the greatest Hope of all for mankind – the Savior who was ultimately born to go to the cross, and then to rise from the dead in victory over all that separated us from God, to “…proclaim liberty to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19 NKJV).”
I think about the wonder and excitement of that night, and of the Hope in that Message, and yet I’m also convicted. Sometimes I wonder to myself, “How well am I doing at showing others the love of Christ? Does my life make others want to know Him more?” Sadly, often the answer is no. See, I know that it’s nothing I did or could do that saved me, but His Gift is so wonderful, and His love so amazing, that it should show all over my face, in my words, in my actions, and permeate my life. So, when I do things like snap at my husband, or have a hard time forgiving someone, or want to shake my fist at that person who cut me off in rush hour traffic, when I compare them to the Christmas message, I fall far, far short. In fact, we all do.
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” But then in the next verse it says, “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (emphasis mine).” That means the gift is free. This passage goes on to talk about how we are saved through faith, that He has forgiven our sins “to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (v 26).”
What do we do once we have asked Christ into our hearts, thereby receiving this free gift? What does the Word say about how to follow Him?
Titus 3:3-8 says, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing and regeneration of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.”
That last part tells us that because we have believed (not to be saved, but as a result of Jesus’ gift), we should be “careful to maintain good works.” We should do this because it is “good and profitable” for others. God can use us to lead others to Him and be a demonstration of His kindness and love. Conversely, the enemy can use our example to push people away if we are not walking the talk.
Reading these words from the book of Titus this evening was a challenge to me – and perhaps it will be to you too, to think about ways that we can be a better demonstration of our faith in Jesus to those who may be outsiders looking in. Maybe someone is undecided as to what to think about Christ, but because they see Him in you or me, they might be encouraged to take the step of asking Him into their heart and life also.
The good thing is, when we mess up and we fall short (which we do daily), He gives us grace and forgiveness, and he gives us His Spirit and His Word to help guide the way. We’re never alone in any decisions we have to make, or any obstacles or crises we face.
Even the Apostle Paul testified to the fact that he struggled with not acting like a Christian at times. He said, “…For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do (Romans 7:15).” He then goes on to say, “O wretched man that I am, who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God– through Jesus Christ our Lord! (vv 24-25).”
So, we will never be perfect this side of Heaven, sadly, but if we have Christ in our hearts, we have been redeemed and forgiven. Let’s look at one way today that we can be a demonstration of His love to someone else.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:15).”
Lord, I thank You for the message that I read from Your Word today. I am humbled and convicted. Sometimes it’s so hard for me to do what You would desire for me to do, and please forgive me where I fall short, Father. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is indeed weak. However, I know You have promised that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Please help me to lean on You and to be the demonstration of Your love and light in this world that You would have me to be. I pray for those fellow believers who are reading this, Lord, that they may draw strength and encouragement from You as well, and that this message from Titus may have encouraged and motivated them as it did me. I pray for those who haven’t yet made the decision to accept You into their hearts, Lord. I pray that today would be the day. If there is anything You would have us do today that could make a difference in someone’s life and will help lead them to You, please motivate us and move us to do so, Father. I pray that we may bring You glory and honor in all we do. In Christ’s most precious name I pray, Amen.