You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:2-3)
You will encounter many people throughout your lifetime who will never, ever crack the cover of the Bible or read a single verse. But they are reading your translation of the Bible in the life you are living, moment by moment, as a child of the Most High God. Scores of unbelievers are reading your version of the Scriptures as they scrutinize the things you do: on and off the job, in the music you listen to, the movies you watch, the web sites you visit, the places you go, how you react to challenges in life, and how you deal with suffering. It is important to remember that we not only preach the Gospel to others with our lips, we preach it with our lives. And what we do speaks so loudly, unbelievers can’t hear what we say!
Let me caution you before we go any further: I am not suggesting that you should or could live a perfect life in the eyes of the watching world. We can’t! Nor do I have any desire to lead us in the direction of feeling responsible for the salvation or condemnation of anyone because of the way we live. We aren’t. We are fallen, broken, imperfect people who live fallen, broken, and imperfect lives. Everything we do we do imperfectly. We serve imperfectly; we give imperfectly.; we love imperfectly. Yet, in spite of all of our imperfections, when our heart beats in tune with the heart of God, when our heart desires to live a life that is pleasing to Him and blesses others—all others—we become a letter from Christ to an unbelieving world.
Scripture asserts that even our best works are “as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) before a holy God. Our God does not “need” our good works . . . as if He needed anything! But our good works are needed by our fellow man. God has raised us from death to life to be the hands and feet of Christ in a fallen and broken world. Yes, our hands get dirty and our feet often stray far from the path God has directed us to follow. So let me give you the key that unlocks the door which will lead others into a deeper understanding of the Gospel you preach, the God you serve, and the epistle you are called to be:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)
Let me ask you: based on this command from our Savior, what kind of epistle have those around you been reading lately? I must confess that there are times when I dream about the great and grand things I can do for the glory of God . . . when in fact the greatest thing I can do is to be more loving! In 1 Corinthians 13, known as “the love chapter” to many of the faithful, the apostle Paul makes it perfectly clear that no matter how spectacular our deeds, if we do them without love, we do them without any redeeming value. Our works return void, because we are poor, blind, and naked, living more for self than for our Savior.
We are surrounded by people who are searching for answers to questions they don’t even know how to ask. They strive and ache with a longing they cannot begin to articulate. If you have trusted in Christ’s atoning death on your behalf, you possess the truth; unbelievers will look to our truth when it is lived out in the life of someone whose words and actions clearly communicate the love of Christ. The love of Christ is not only meant to compel us, it is to convince others we have something they desperately need, even though they will not admit they want it. If you want to be a “living epistle” that attracts rather than repels, let the love of Christ guide, govern, and direct your steps. And in those times when you misstep, tell the watching world that your sin is why you needed a Savior who would die on a cross to pay for your sins. And He is waiting to welcome them also! His invitation is simple and charming:
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!