10 Trusting with the heart leads to righteousness, and confessing with the mouth leads to salvation.
When asked at my Bible Study what Righteousness meant, it was defined as, “Right standing with God.” Right standing with God can feel like a process. I came to Christ in 2002, but I came dirty, thirsting, and struggling.
It took time, and I am still growing from when I and my husband became a disciple of Christ. Right standing with God is a process of one good decision at a time. Like what we studied last week of the woman at the well. She had five husbands and the one with her at the time was not her husband (John 4).
Sin is a struggle. As a young, single adult, I struggled being right with God. I sought Him all my life. So when someone is living with someone or sleeping with them, they have my compassion. The temptation is difficult. But to stop struggling is worse. You should continue fighting for what is right. So you may mess up.
But tomorrow is a new day to begin anew. To try again. Older Christians take for granted sometimes the strength new Christians don’t yet have that time and prayer in the Word gives. So, I believe, right standing with God is a process; even a long process as we grow in Him.
She tells me he said the prayer of Salvation, but she’s going on vacation, and would I like to contact him?
What if I don’t have the right words?
What if my transparency pushes him away?
What if he sees the perfectionist tendencies in me and runs?
What if he challenges me and I can’t give him what he wants to hear?
What if I tell him what he needs to hear, but that in itself pushes him away?
In the car, my husband grills me, pretending he’s an unbeliever. It’s harder to talk of faith that way. I laugh and make jokes, but in all seriousness I’m better when the Holy Spirit puts me in the situation where it feels natural. Then, the words come and the worry fades. I remember the sermon about not watering down the truth, but tell the truth in love.
That’s not something we hear often from some of our churches anymore. We’ve become sales people—hiding the difficulties of living the Christian life, burying sin, and diluting repentance. Are we trying to shine Jesus instead of letting Jesus shine? He needs to know who Jesus really is by getting a Bible and having someone walk alongside him, holding his hand, until he learns to let go and hold on to Jesus. But it’s times like these I chastise myself and say, “Just call me Moses.”
“How many have you brought to Christ?” was the question I always felt guilty over when someone would ask it in Christian circles or through sermons.
I have brought no one to Christ. Yet, I can say I don’t feel guilty about it anymore. It was something Blanca said on a Sunday while relating her testimony. Not one single person brings anyone to Christ; not one person can bring anyone to Christ; Christ brings people to Him; and the people who can count on their fingers how many souls they harvested can’t take credit for that either. They’ve unintentionally forgotten the ones who pressed the seed into the soil, the others who watered that seed and grew it, until someone harvested.
A team effort; not a single person’s effort; and not even their own effort. Bringing someone to Christ as Pastor Chris said is a supernatural thing—a spiritual miracle. I’m a planter.
The kind of planting I do doesn’t leave crusted dirt beneath my fingernails. I press the seed into the soil and cover it with more soil. Then, they leave and someone else waters. Someone else harvests. But it is God who leads the unsaved to Him—those whose names are written in the Book of Life. Sometimes, those seeds fall to the wayside and never grow, and we mourn because their future looks so uncertain and dismal. It’s important not to “write them off.” It’s important to pray for the unsaved—our families, our enemies and our friends.
Has Christ used you to bring someone to Him? How long did it take?
They laugh over there, leaning against the metal chairs, and blowing smoke into the air. They represent our culture. The tattoos in blue curl up his forearm. His friend talks about some sex site and laughs as if women like property exist for their pleasure, demoting a beautiful act meant for marriage to something jaded and cheap. A shared private joke makes them laugh together.
I can smell their smoke drifting invisible to our table and the warm sun presses down on my dark shirt. I cup my mug and try to sip the exotic grind untainted by the smoke. His friend has a small round container in his lap and he drags his finger through it. Another friend rides his bicycle to their table and stops to laugh with them.
“It’s hot out here.” My husband grimaces.
We move inside and find a seat near the window, but we didn’t move because of them. Encounters like that only help to form characters for future books in my mind. My husband starts talking about baseball and his day yesterday. A bird flies into the window distracting us. Tattoo man lounges, inhaling his long cigarette. His feet rest on the opposite chair. We can no longer hear their conversation.
I look at my husband and feel joy. The sunlight catches the gold off my ring. We’re sitting in a coffee shop on my lunch hour, basking in the mutual love and admiration for each other, and borrowing some of the peace from the day. We leave tattoo man in his cloud of smoke and wander back to work glad that I invited Christ into my life.
Describe why you are glad that Christ is in your life.
“After we allow the Lord to fill us with what we need for the day, it is important to stay focused on Him. If not, we could end up like my friend, focusing attention on ourselves rather than God. Many times this not only affects us, but also the people around us. Prayer keeps us plugged into Jesus, which in turn energises our faith into action. Amen!” – Carla McDougal
How many times has the phrase, “It’s not a sprint, but a marathon,” been uttered by people attempting to lose weight? A friend of mine runs marathons and iron man races. I admire his discipline. It shows in his personal life as well. But a Christian race spans several marathons. It’s not simply a 5K.
Hebrews 12:13 says, “Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” The NIV Study Bible explains Make Level Paths, “a call for upright conduct that will help, rather than hinder the spiritual and moral welfare of others, especially the “lame” who waver in the Christian faith.”
I hate running. My endurance for long power walks is long, but I can only run for ten minutes before I quit. In order for a runner to prepare for a marathon, he requires frequent running and a good diet. You can’t get that by hitting that fast food joint every day. I can’t maintain my physical shape or endurance if I don’t properly feed my body. The finish line for the Christian is beyond our sight. The enemy likes to hinder our race, even using our own weaknesses, in an attempt to make us ineffective.
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others,” says Philippians 2:1-4 (NIV). The Study Bible notes in 2:1, “to be in Christ is to be saved. It is to be in intimate personal relationship with Christ the Savior. From this relationship flow all the particular benefits and fruits of Salvation, like encouragement, intense care and deep sympathy.”
The Biggest Loser often shows winning contestants paying it forward. Acts of kindness flow from the most compassionate ones as they assist a morbidly obese person and encourage them to lose weight. The “lame” need that encouragement, too. We’re a family of believers. In Philippians 2:1-11, it explains the traits that we should exhibit like considering others better than ourselves, love, compassion, fellowship, servant-like traits, and protecting our own and someone else’s interests with equal fervor. In John 13, Christ washes the feet of His disciples. It is a menial task usually performed by a servant. There was no servant and no one else volunteered. Jesus washed His disciples feet during the meal to prove a point: A lesson in humility and selfless service (as His crucifixion would later prove).
Our Christian race was begun and finished by Jesus. This race is empty of purpose if Jesus does not become the objective and the goal of our race. Spiritual fluff is like eating only junk food all day, every day and ballooning into a 600 pound person that cannot finish the race. He drops out because it’s too hard. “Salvation is not merely a gift recieved once for all; it expresses itself in an ongoing process in which the believer is streniously involved.” says the NIV Study Bible in reference to Philippians 2:12 (see also 2 Peter 1). A runner eats healthy food like fresh vegetables and fruit with lean protiens to help his body perform at optimum levels. Likewise, we must feed our faith by ingesting into our minds God’s Word (The Bible) and going to Him in frequent prayer. In building a stronger faith, we learn more about the glory of God and how best to reflect Him in our lives. This race isn’t a 5K, but several marathons long!
“I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light” – John Keith Falconer
“What’s your name?” The man held out his hand.
“My name’s Carlos. It ain’t important to know more.” Carlos stared at it until the man nervously dropped his hand to his side again. He could handle a fearful person.
“Will you join us?” The man kept his hands in his pockets as he spoke and some coins jingled together.
Carlos felt his stomach tighten and knot from lack of sustenance. He had gulped down a stale beer, ate fast food leftovers, and managed to keep a rat from taking the other half of his candy bar five or six hours ago. He glanced towards the south side of the street, relieved no one was watching, and gladly entered an unfamiliar domain. The carpet was nice. Soft chairs created different conversation areas. Some people were playing games and others were reading. A Bible sat nearby with bookmarks. It appeared to belong to a beautiful white girl.
“Come! Welcome!” She pointed to a table at the other end of the room.
He felt dirty, but followed the pretty girl to a table laden with food. His stomach hurt. Carlos took a plate and piled it as high as possible to get as much as possible. Tomorrow did not promise a fine meal. It was another day of waking up from a night of drinking, dragging himself to a McDonalds, and then to a miserable job—his sixth job in a year. He only befriended one of the Shadows five months ago. It was far more profitable selling death than working his hands until they blistered to make minimum wage. Conversation from the pretty white girl rolled over him like a train, but something was beginning to change like a leak in a levy.
“Whatcha know about this neighborhood, huh?” Carlos challenged as he stuffed food down his throat and gulped down a glass of real milk.
“Nothing.” The pretty girl fluffed out her dress.
Her voice reminded him of something fine and rare. It made him pause as he accidently sloshed some milk down his goatee.
“Whatcha doin’ here? Tomorrow is gonna be the same. The same streets, the same gray sky, the same taxi cabs, and Charlotte over there on the corner will sell herself tomorrow night and the next night, too. Whatcha gonna change?” Carlos watched as she picked up a clean towel and dabbed at his chin in the most careful way. It surprised him.
“Bringing hope.” She threw the paper towel onto a spent plate. “Why do you sell drugs? Why are you happy with this?” Her eyes were fresh and green like summer grass unscarred by time.
He touched his own asphalt rough face and felt the scars on the outside and inside.
“It will make me money. Drug dealers are out there. Face it. You cannot turn a corner here and not find a drug dealer. They are making money. Why shouldn’t I make money? People are going to do drugs anyway and why shouldn’t I give them what they want. Supply and demand, right?” Carlos laughed after his speech.
“So because everyone else is doing it and making money, that’s it? You feel you have had no part in the death it brings?” The girl seemed troubled.
“Look, if I am going to be accused, lady, I’m leavin.’” Carlos felt something nudge his soul like something knocking on it. Let me in, it whispered, let me in! He ignored the voice. “You have no right to judge me, man!”
“Tomorrow is going to be the same for you, isn’t it? Nothing will change. Simply amazing.” She pressed one of the shiny new Bible’s into his hand. Then, like a swift breeze, she left him alone on the chair.
The Shadow shrugged, finished his dinner, and wiped his sticky hands on his jeans. He left without another word. The Shadows were out again in a fog of smoke. He joined them and lit another cigarette. A bottle of Jack passed from one to another. Ahhh, the Shadow thought, Billy held up another liquor store. At least Billy returned.
“You went into that place?” A flat voice whispered near his ear.
“Not for long. It’s a free meal, stupid.” The girl with the eyes stepped from the light onto the sidewalk. She glanced uneasily at the south side of the street and began to walk. The Shadows stirred.
“Whatcha say, Johnny boy?”
“A little fun wouldn’t hurt none.” The Shadows all spoke to each other in excited tones. It made Carlos uneasy. The summer grass eyes were soft and trusting. The other Shadows moved silently down the street on the south side, pacing themselves. He watched and stayed behind. An internal war was taking place. He knew these boys. They would not be rough. It was just a little fun, he thought, and she would learn why they should not be in this neighborhood. Nothing changes. Everyday is the same. When the boys returned several hours later, the lights in the missionary building were dark. Carlos remained smoking underneath the dead lamp. No one was looking for the girl with the summer grass eyes. The boys were grinning, their breath heavy with Jack, and they began to feel the effects of sleep. No word left their lips. The girl slipped from memory. The boys would forget the girl with the summer grass eyes come morning. The Shadows evaporated into their holes.
Carlos put out his cigarette and began to retrace the steps of the girl until he reached an alley. Her floral dress was torn. The blouse did not have any buttons. Her white face and blue lips caused Carlos to fall on his knees and for the first time he knew sorrow. They would not look for her until morning. The rats would visit. The homeless would snatch her clothing. Knives of guilt sliced through his soul and tears fell down his rough cheeks. Carlos left the next morning. He ventured into the light and was a Shadow no more. The girl with the summer grass eyes followed him as he took what money he had earned and began to walk away from the black pond of human waste, but over the years in his absence, some things did change.
The Shadows still gathered every night on the south side. Mr. Abbers still unlocks the prison bars every morning to open his coffee shop paying no heed to the Shadows who retreat into the darkness to sell death in secret. The Laundromat is still busy with new single moms and their children still trudge to school in clothes stolen from their enemies and book bags donated to them by charity. But the missionary organization stayed open and flourished as God’s Word spread.
More people in the neighborhood were noticing that these curiously well-dressed people did not treat them as someone lesser, but as an equal–someone who makes mistakes, too. A plaque at the front door recognized the young girl with the summer grass eyes for her sacrafice. The engraved words read, “God sent a girl with summer grass eyes to help me find Him.” Every year on the anniversary of her death, an anonymous donor sends them a dozen red roses.